TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - The district chief of West Manggarai and Komodo Island designated the district's entire marine and coastal waters as a shark and manta ray sanctuary. According to a press release sent to Tempo by the West Manggarai and Komodo district administration, fishing for manta rays, threatened sharks, and other threatened species such as turtles, Dugong, Napoleon wrasse and some coral species, throughout the district's 7,000 sq km waters that extend up to 12 nautical miles offshore, is now banned.
"Our district of West Manggarai and Komodo is recognized as a world class marine tourism destination. By prohibiting fishing for these threatened species, we can ensure they will remain for future generations to enjoy," said Sebastinus Wantung, head of the district's Marine and FisheriesOffice.
West Manggarai and Komodo, located at the heart of the Coral Triangle, is home to some of the world's richest marine biodiversity, including more than 10 shark species, and both oceanic (Manta birostris) and reef manta rays (Manta alfredi). Today's announcement extends existing conservation management within Komodo National Park's 1,000 sq km marine habitats to now encompass the entire district.
"Manta ray watching tourism is worth an estimated US$15 million to Indonesia's economy every year, and West Manggarai and Komodo is one of the top destinations. The chance to see a manta ray draws divers and snorkelers from around the world," said MantaWatch director Andrew Harvey. "I applaud the district chief's visionary leadership, this is a great example of how governments and the diving industry can work together to achieve positive impacts for the environment and the economy."
"This has been a great step forward! It is fantastic to see the West Flores government giving attention to marine conservation; recognizing that the marine environment is a very important element driving the growth of tourism in this region!" said Greg Heighes, a local dive operator and representative of the Komodo Dive Operators Association.
The West Manggarai and Komodo district government invited MantaWatch to provide technical and legal advice, and worked with the Komodo Dive Operators Association to develop proposals for the shark and manta ray sanctuary. Divers are now helping to monitor the sanctuary's impacts on populations of threatened species by sharing their encounters on MantaTrax, a social web application developed by MantaWatch to promote open and participative marine conservation.
MantaWatch is a not-for-profit marine conservation company based in London, United Kingdom that is working to protect threatened manta rays by applying technologies and education to support local conservation actions. MantaWatch operates MantaTrax‹the world's first social web application dedicated to open, transparent and participative marine conservation and runs the annual MantaWatch Internship Program's professional manta ray research and conservation training program for students in developing countries.***