Science and industry join forces to unveil manta ray mysteries

Sep 10, 2013
Science and industry join forces to unveil manta ray mysteries
Credit: Dr Kathy Townsend

Manta rays are hard to miss —big, black and stretching up to seven metres wide, but scientists are concerned about the survival of the world's largest ray.

Murdoch University is joining forces with the University of Queensland's Project Manta and industry partners Austral Fisheries and the TG Kailis Marine Conservation Fund to establish "Project Manta – WA".

Project Manta's Dr Kathy Townsend said there was a sense of urgency to increase understanding of these completely harmless ocean giants.

"Manta rays can be considered the canaries in the in relation to the marine environment in which they live," Dr Townsend said.

"Manta rays have recently been listed as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Endangered Species because of the unsustainable, unregulated fisheries in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Africa.

Mr Frazer McGregor, from Murdoch University said "Manta rays are a big ecotourism drawcard, forming the basis of multimillion dollar ."

"A recent proposal to have manta rays listed as a threatened species under the Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) was unsuccessful and highlights that there are significant about the species."

Project Manta has established a comprehensive network of recreational divers and dive industries that provide identification photographs of manta rays along the entire east coast of Australia.

Murdoch University's study has been focused at Ningaloo Reef off Western Australia. Both research groups independently collated a database of more than 650 individual animals within their respective research areas.

"The support of Austral Fisheries and the TG Kailis Marine Conservation Fund will allow the two largest manta ray research projects in Australia to join forces, enabling one of the most comprehensive studies of the biology and ecology of manta rays in the world," said Mr David Carter, CEO of Austral Fisheries.

"This project aims to gather the data required to ensure manta rays receive full protection status in Australian waters."

The national project is calling on local divers and snorkellers from around Australia to become actively involved in creating an image database to identify .

The aim is to recruit new citizen scientists across the manta ray's entire range, from Western Australia, the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales.

"We specifically want pictures of the underbelly of the manta ray because they can be used to identify individuals," Dr Townsend said.

"The black and white patterns are as unique as a fingerprint."

The nationwide collaboration between scientists, industry and the general public started in July 2013.

Explore further: Chimpanzees prefer firm, stable beds

More information: www.facebook.com/pages/PROJECT-MANTA-The-manta-rays-of-eastern-Australia/224905422714

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists target manta ray mysteries

May 01, 2007

Manta rays are hard to miss —big, black and stretching up to seven metres wide, but scientists are still in the dark about the world's largest ray.

Majestic manta ray designated vulnerable species

Nov 15, 2011

Diving with the majestic manta ray is an eco-tourist’s dream come true that may soon be experienced only by viewing pictures and videos of the shark family’s graceful giants.

Indonesia announces shark, manta ray sanctuary

Feb 20, 2013

Indonesia has announced a new shark and manta ray sanctuary, the first to protect the species in the rich marine ecosystem of the Coral Triangle, known as the "Amazon of the ocean".

US backs adding teeth to global shark protection

Jan 25, 2013

The United States said Friday it would support proposals to curb the trade of five shark species and manta rays, whose numbers are declining because of demand for fins and gills.

Recommended for you

Orchid named after UC Riverside researcher

just added

One day about eight years ago, Katia Silvera, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of California, Riverside, and her father were on a field trip in a mountainous area in central Panama when they stumbled ...

In sex-reversed cave insects, females have the penises

2 hours ago

Researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on April 17 have discovered little-known cave insects with rather novel sex lives. The Brazilian insects, which represent four distinct but re ...

Fear of the cuckoo mafia

2 hours ago

If a restaurant owner fails to pay the protection money demanded of him, he can expect his premises to be trashed. Warnings like these are seldom required, however, as fear of the consequences is enough to ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Tiny power plants hold promise for nuclear energy

Small underground nuclear power plants that could be cheaper to build than their behemoth counterparts may herald the future for an energy industry under intense scrutiny since the Fukushima disaster, the ...

Hand out money with my mobile? I think I'm ready

A service is soon to launch in the UK that will enable us to transfer money to other people using just their name and mobile number. Paym is being hailed as a revolution in banking because you can pay peopl ...

Classifying cognitive styles across disciplines

Educators have tried to boost learning by focusing on differences in learning styles. Management consultants tout the impact that different decision-making styles have on productivity. Various fields have ...