A Sanctuary for Manta Rays

Last month, Indonesia established the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays — those enormous, finned fortresses that can reach nearly 30 feet across. For the first time, manta ray hunting and export is banned within the entire 2.3 million square miles of Indonesia’s exclusive economic zone.

The sanctuary is a victory for conservationists and the manta rays, as Indonesia was home to some of the largest ray fisheries in the world.

But the decree may not have been motivated solely by the plight of the rays, whose populations are dwindling in the archipelago. A study published last May in PLoS ONE calculated the measure of a manta and concluded the immense rays are worth much more alive than dead. For starters, the study reports that Indonesia earns an estimated $15 million in manta ray tourist revenues annually — compared to the ray fisheries, worth about $500,000.

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