A group of citizen divers and marine scientists joined together to gather data for a recently published report that shows Komodo National Park off Indonesia could be instrumental to recovering endangered manta rays.
Scientists and the local dive community contributed thousands of photos to a crowdsourced manta ray database called MantaMatcher.org.
According to lead author Dr. Elitza Germanov:
“I was amazed by how receptive the local dive community was in helping collect much-needed data on these threatened animals. With their support, we were able to identify over 1,000 individual manta rays from over 4,000 photographs.”
Marine Megafauna Foundation co-founder and study co-author Dr. Andrea Marshall said:
“People love manta rays—they are one of the most iconic animals in our oceans. The rise of the number of people engaging in SCUBA diving, snorkeling, and the advent of affordable underwater cameras meant that photos and videos taken by the public during their holidays could be used to quickly and affordably scale data collection.”
And Germanov added:
“I found it very interesting how some manta rays appear to prefer spending their time in some sites more than others, even when sites are 5 km apart, which are short distances for manta rays. This means that manta rays which prefer sites where fishing activities continue to occur or that are more popular with tourism will endure greater impacts.”
Given that the majority of the photos came from four main dive sites in Komodo, some locals think the Park should regulate how many human visitors it gets. According to Ande Kefi, a park employee who took part in the study:
“This study shows that the places where tourists commonly observe manta rays are important for the animals to feed, clean, and mate. This means that the Komodo National Park should create measures to limit the disturbance at these sites. I hope that this study will encourage tourism operators to understand the need for the regulations already imposed and increase compliance.”
Check out the study here.