Conservation through Research, Awareness and Education

UK Registered Charity Number: 1145387

 

Project Goals:

The French Polynesian Manta Ray Project (FPMRP) was founded to learn more about the little studied life cycle, population dynamics, and habitat usage of the French Polynesian manta population. Although the project’s main focus is to learn more about the natural history of manta rays, it also works closely with local communities, particularly French Polynesian schools, to educate and inspire the next generation to conserve and respect these amazing animals. Partnerships are also being built between these local schools and those in Europe to build an appreciation not only for manta rays, but marine life in oceans across the globe. The project also works directly with the local government, tour operators, and their guests to create greater awareness of, and protection for, these graceful rays and their habitat.

Why this is important:

As French Polynesia becomes more affordable as a tourist destination, the huge abundance and biodiversity of marine life becomes more accessible. One of the biggest marine life attractions to this region are the manta rays. However, unlike the twenty one shark species seen in French Polynesia, manta rays do not yet have specific national protection, despite their economic importance to the country. With increasing pressure from development and tourism activities at key manta aggregation sites in French Polynesia, it is important these activities and the effects they have upon the manta rays and their habitat are recorded in order to mitigate these impacts.

Aerial view of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. This beautiful atoll has a small population of reef manta rays which frequent a cleaning station in the atoll’s lagoon.

Aerial view of Bora Bora in French Polynesia. This beautiful atoll has a small population of reef manta rays which frequent a cleaning station in the atoll’s lagoon.

Project Overview:

This project is a collaboration between The Manta Trust, Centre de Recherche Insulaire et Observatoire de l’Environnement (CRIOBE), Observatoire des Requins de Polynésie (ORP), TopDive Polynesia and Maupiti Diving. The aim of the project is to build upon the work started by Moeava (Moe) De Rosemont in 2002 to learn more about the manta populations within French Polynesia by updating and expanding Moe’s manta photo-ID database to document their spatial ecology, habitat use, and movement patterns. This project includes the area covered by the Society islands, Tuamotu islands, and Marquesas islands. In April 2016 two members of staff from the SEA LIFE London Aquarium (SLLA), funded by the Manta Trust through SLLA, began conducting research on the manta population in Bora Bora. Their work focuses on estimating population size and structure, identifying migration patterns, and assessing the significance and severity of any natural and anthropogenic threats to the mantas.

Documenting the drivers of habitat segregation between the two manta species found in the waters of French Polynesia is another important area of research in this project. In most regions globally where manta rays have been recorded, usually only one species occurs with regularity. However, French Polynesia has significant populations of both species, which appear to be utilizing different habitats.

Shoals of damelfishes gather at the water’s surface above the manta cleaning station in the lagoon of Bora Bora Atoll, artificially attracted by food handouts provided by some of the tour operators.

Shoals of damelfishes gather at the water’s surface above the manta cleaning station in the lagoon of Bora Bora Atoll, artificially attracted by food handouts provided by some of the tour operators.

Another aspect of the project is community and education based – focusing on creating long lasting partnerships between local schools in French Polynesia and schools in Europe. Students in both regions will be encouraged to educate and inspire each other about their local marine life and – with a focus on pelagic planktivores – draw analogies between the French Polynesian manta rays and European basking sharks.

Main Objectives:

  1. Develop a photo-ID database of individuals, compile historical data on manta rays, and assess population size and characteristics.
  2. Investigate drivers for habitat segregation between reef and oceanic manta species.
  3. Investigate the spatial ecology and migration of individually identifiable reef manta rays.
  4. Monitor natural and anthropogenic threats to manta rays and their habitat.
  5. Build relationship with local schools and create partnerships between these schools and those in Europe, and create educational content on manta rays and their habitat for schools.

Partners & Sponsors:

Without the generous support and sponsorship we receive we would not be able to achieve our work in French Polynesia. We are very grateful to these organisations for their support.

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