Conservation through Research, Awareness and Education

UK Registered Charity Number: 1145387

Project Goals:

The New Caledonia Manta Ray Project was established in 2015 in collaboration with Conservation International to gain first insights into the characteristics, connectivity, and population size of manta rays in New Caledonia, and work with governments and local communities to create awareness and promote conservation of these amazing species.

Why this is important:

New Caledonia’s sub-tropical waters offer incredibly rich and diverse marine life and healthy coral reef ecosystems, which promote life to an array of abundant fish populations, marine mammals as well as apex species such as sharks and manta rays. However, very little is known about the local manta ray populations, their connectivity, migration routes, and to what extend current measures (including marine parks) are sufficient at protecting mantas and their habitats.

Project Overview:

New Caledonia is located in the Southwest Pacific Ocean, 1,210 km east of Australia within the Coral Sea. The archipelago of New Caledonia is part of the Melanesia sub region and composed of the main island (Grande Terre), the Loyalty Islands (Ouvéa, Maré, Lifou), the Chesterfield Islands, the Belep Archipelago, and the Isle of Pines. New Caledonia’s sub-tropical waters host an incredible array of marine life and healthy coral reef ecosystems; New Caledonia has the largest coral reef lagoon in the world and considerable efforts have been put forward to conserve its biodiversity.

Reef Manta Ray, Manta alfredi, Rasfari North, North Malé Atoll, Maldives © Guy Stevens Manta Trust 2015 (12)Six marine sites were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2008, featuring an exceptional diversity of coral and fish species and a continuum of habitats, from mangroves to sea grass bed, with the world’s most diverse concentration of reef structures. The UNESCO World Heritage Sites became part of one of the largest Marine Parks in the world in 2012 – The Natural Park of the Coral Sea – protecting 1.3 million square kilometres. The Natural Park of the Coral Sea stretches out over the entirety of the New Caledonian Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and territorial waters. However, very little knowledge exists about the manta rays within these waters, their population characteristics, connectivity, and migrations within and across the UNESCO Heritage Sites.

Reef Manta Ray, Manta alfredi, Rasfari North, North Malé Atoll, Maldives © Guy Stevens Manta Trust 2015 (13)This collaborative project between the Manta Trust and Conservation International New Caledonia aims to improve the current knowledge through identifying the population size and characteristics, connectivity and seasonal patterns, spatial ecology and habitat use of manta and mobula ray species within the New Caledonia territory, including territorial waters and the EEZ. The primary, but not exclusive, focal species of this project is the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi). The project further aims to improve the conservation management for these species and their habitat in New Caledonia, conduct education and awareness activities for the general public and local communities, and work with customs authority representatives, provincial authorities, and central government to communicate the findings of this project for supporting conservation both at local and national level.

Main Objectives:

  1. Investigate the population size and characteristics, connectivity, seasonal patterns, spatial ecology, and habitat use of manta rays in New Caledonia.
  2. Build local capacities and strengthen awareness of local stakeholders by partnering with tourism operators.
  3. Conduct communication, outreach and education activities to socialize the project in New Caledonia.
  4. Advance conservation of manta rays and their habitats by using project outcomes to advocate for integrated management in the existing framework.

Partners & Sponsors:

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

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© 2017 Manta Trust