Several weeks ago, Sebastian Troeng — vice president of CI’s Global Marine division — blogged about a recent encounter with the majestic manta rays (Manta birostris) of Raja Ampat, Indonesia. This week brings good news for the rays, sharks and other marine life of Raja Ampat: the creation of a shark and manta sanctuary encompassing the entire 46,000 square-kilometer (17,760 square-mile) region.
The Raja Ampat bupati (local government leader) declared that it is now illegal to:
- Catch sharks, manta rays, aquarium fish, dugongs and sea turtles;
- Catch any fish in tourism and conservation areas; and
- Use highly destructive fishing methods, such as reef bombing.
Raja Ampat is thought to be the most species-rich marine region in the world, yet three-quarters of its shark species face the threat of local extinction. Sharks are apex predators whose presence is crucial to regulate populations of fish lower on the food chain, including many commercially important species.
The creation of this sanctuary is largely thanks to the efforts of the local Misool Ecoresort and the international organization Shark Savers, as well as WildAid, The Nature Conservancy and CI. Hundreds of other nongovernmental organizations and tourism companies also backed the sanctuary’s creation, which should help attract more visitors interested in underwater tourism — boosting the local economy while giving species critical protection.