Photo from LAMAVE

The Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines (LAMAVE), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to the conservation of large marine animals, is calling for the safeguarding of the newly identified manta ray cleaning site in Taytay.

Zach Riskin, the head of LAMAVE’s Manta Ray Research and Conservation Project, has expressed deep concern about the threats faced by the manta ray population in the area, which is only the 3rd manta ray cleaning station identified in the Philippines, next to Tubbataha Natural Marine Park in Cagayancillo and Ticao-Burias Pass Protected Seascape in Bicol Region.

Riskin explains that both intentional poaching and accidental bycatch in fishing gear are taking a heavy toll on these vulnerable creatures, despite the supposed protection of some laws.

“Poaching is always a threat. Manta rays have been protected internationally since 2016 and locally, I believe, since 2017. So, there is national protection for them, but despite this, they’re still targeted, and mostly accidental bycatch,” he laments.

“So when this happens, it’s really hard to say when it truly does happen because if a manta ray gets entangled or accidentally caught, it might just be chopped up on the boat, and we’ll never know,” he adds.

Riskin also notes that the numbers of manta rays in the Philippines have rapidly declined due to overfishing, habitat degradation, and other anthropogenic factors.

The identification of the manta ray cleaning site in Taytay signifies a crucial milestone in understanding the habitat requirements and behaviors of these marine creatures.

“So, the cleaning station is where manta rays come, and little fish eat the parasites, dead skin, like a spa,” Riskin explains. Mantas tend to come in the morning, and then they can hang around for up to the whole day, almost 10 hours. They just circle the cleaning station, and then the cleaner fish slowly clean their skin,” he explains further.

Riskin admits the potential of the area as a tourist destination. But for now, they are calling for safeguards to be placed first.

“There’s huge potential for tourism interest for manta rays because they’re one of the most exciting things you can see as a scuba diver. Personally, as a scuba diver, I used to work as a dive guide. What people want to see are sharks, like hammerheads, whale sharks, and manta rays. They’re an amazing creature to see,” he said.

“The thing is, in my opinion, development is going to happen no matter what sooner or later. So for now, we would want, ideally, to slow down, let’s get the protections in place first. And then when there’s proper protection, you can boost tourism,” he added.

About Post Author

Previous articleFishermen rescued after vessel catches fire and sinks in Palawan waters
Next articleOrtega pushes for free medical consultations for teachers