- Determine and identify populations of manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean, ( birostris, M. alfredi, and a possibly a third sub-species).
- Record sightings of individuals to create a database, within and around the Whale Shark Biosphere Reserve.
- Identify potential threats to existing populations of manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean.
- Improve local and national legislation for the conservation of these species.
Project Start Date:
Located in the northern Yucatan Peninsula, the marine area that lies adjacent to the Wildlife Yum Balam Protected Area is a transition zone, where the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea converge. This transition zone hosts species from both ecosystems, and the high biodiversity of this area is supported by significant upwellings driven by the deep currents of the Yucatan Channel. These upwellings fuel the production of huge blooms of plankton that attracts a range of species including; marine molluscs, polychaetes, echinoderms, crustaceans, birds and marine mammals. It also attracts the world’s largest fish, namely whale sharks and both species of manta ray.
The Mexican Caribbean Manta Project aims to identify and conduct research on the poorly understood populations of oceanic manta rays (Manta birostris) and reef manta rays (Manta alfredi) in the Gulf of Mexico, which may also host a third, unidentified subspecies of Manta.
Why this is important:
There is currently a lack of knowledge about the populations and characteristics of manta rays that frequent this important but also vulnerable habitat. The objective of this project is to conduct research on and describe the local manta ray species, to promote awareness and education in the local communities through educational programs, and to create information that can be used to develop sustainable models for the conservation of this species.
Every year during May to November, an incredible spectacle occurs in the water of the Gulf of Mexico. Dozens of whale sharks aggregate around the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula as part of their annual migration to feed on the plankton rich waters. This by itself an incredible sight, these aggregations are often joined by numbers of graceful manta rays who equally delight in the feed.
Main Aims & Objectives:
- Gather samples of local populations in order to register the behavior, sex and more accurate scientific information that will lead to a better understanding of these manta rays.
- Create a photographic database that individually identifies each manta ray specimen and its geographical distribution.
- Realize a satellite tagging and genetic sampling program, where the relationship between local manta groups and other populations in different geographical locations such as the Gulf of Mexico and Florida, as well as globally, are better understood.
- Analyze the impact caused by touristic and related fishing activities in their habitat.
- Create and develop an Environmental Education Program in order to increase consciousness of the importance of mantas as well as the risks they face in the waters of the Mexican Caribbean.
- Encourage the protection of Manta species locally and nationally, through and with the collaboration of governmental entities, local communities, non-governmental organizations and tourist operators.
This proposed research, conservancy and educational program, which include mitigation or modification of unsustainable fishing, non-regulated tourism and lack of protection laws, require funding. These last mentioned factors are primarily and directly involved in the degradation of the ecosystem and the problems that affects different manta species.
By providing new sustainable models related to local community activities, which are compatible with conservation areas where manta populations or sightings occur, the new information generated by this project will be used as a tool to support the protection of these species on a local scale, directed to generate a positive impact in nearby ecosystems from Isla Mujeres, with the chance of a more active governmental participation, which will be required in order to improve effective measures to protect the manta species within the MPA.
As part of our mission to raise awareness and provide education on manta ray conservation, the Manta Trust has teamed up with regional eco-minded tourism operators to provide ‘Manta Expeditions’. This is our newest venture in raising vital awareness for these animals, a series of liveaboard dive and snorkel trips that focus specifically on getting our guests in close proximity to manta rays, whale sharks and other ‘wish list’ marine species, while imparting expert knowledge and skills.
Visit the project website: www.mantacaribbeanproject.org
Mexican Caribbean Manta Ray Project: A montage of footage from trips in the field studying the manta rays.
Partners & Sponsors:
Without the generous support and sponsorship we receive we would not be able to achieve our work in the Maldives. We are very grateful to these organisations for their support.