Understanding the habitat use and residency of mobula rays
The aim of the project is to conserve and restore manta and devil ray populations in the Philippines. There is currently a lack of knowledge regarding the stock identity and the geographical range of these populations in the Philippines. LAMAVE is collecting biological (e.g manta photo identification by deploying remote underwater video), ecological (e.g residency by using acoustic telemetry), environmental (e.g current, food availability), and socio-economic (e.g benefits generated by the manta diving tourism) data to be able to design a proper conservation and recovery strategy, taking into consideration the local communities depending on this area. This data will set the basis for the creation of the first dedicated manta ray sanctuary in the Philippines.
Since the recent ban on catching and selling of manta and mobula rays in the Philippines by the national Bureau of Fisheries in response to CITES listing the rays on Appendix II, it is now the time for those population to recover. While by-catch and illegal fishing persist, our project aims to identify and describe remaining populations of manta and devil rays in the country, identify conservation priority areas and migratory corridors and set the basis for the creation of a dedicated network of protected area to allow the species to recover.
Off Ticao Island (Masbate) lays Manta Bowl, a large seamount presenting extraordinary habitat and a large diversity of large marine vertebrates. Manta Bowl hosts a large manta cleaning station, and is a mating site and feeding area for these animals, further underlining the importance of this habitat. Both species of manta, thresher sharks, white-tip reef sharks occur on the seamount. Hammerheads as well as schools of devil rays (spine tail devil ray and bent fins devil ray) are also occasionally reported by dive operators and fishermen. However, despite the increasing diving tourism, no protection has been granted to this key habitat, while sharks and rays are still caught in the area.