Running the Gauntlet: Regional Movement Patterns of Manta alfredi through a Complex of Parks and Fisheries
Manta rays (Genus Manta) are economically important for fisheries and tourism in Indonesia. These species have been listed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List as Vulnerable to extinction; therefore, human exploitation of manta rays must be regulated. A better understanding of the habitat use and movement patterns of manta rays in Indonesia is needed in order to employ effective conservation measures. To gain better insight into the movements of Manta alfredi we used ‘Manta Matcher’, an online database with an integrated automated matching algorithm, to compare photographs from 2,604 encounters of M. alfredi collected by recreational divers and dive operators throughout Indonesia over a nine-year period. This photographic comparison revealed that manta rays migrated between regional sanctuaries such as Nusa Penida, the Gili Islands, and the Komodo National Park (up to 450 km straight-line distance). The areas between these sanctuaries are heavily fished and trafficked by ships, and when manta rays travel through these regions they risk being fished and injured by ship strikes. These long-range manta ray movements suggest connectivity between M. alfredi populations in neighboring islands and raise concerns about the future management of regional populations. It is recommended that a national conservation strategy be developed to protect the remaining populations in the country.