Thank you, Thank you, Thank you!
Manta Pacific Research Foundation (MPRF) has been working with the Hawaii community and our State Legislature for five years to provide protection to manta rays in Hawaii. We are all very happy that Hawaii is finally realizing the importance of these amazing animals in our State waters. Special thanks goes to our Kona legislatures Senator Josh Green and Representative Denny Coffman for helping get this bill through the legislative process. However, it is really due to the tremendous support the bill has received from both the Hawaii community and everyone world wide that the bill was passed. Hundreds of letters were written in support of the bill, and thousands of people signed our petition in support of protecting the manta rays. Mahalo to you all!
The final version of HB366 makes it illegal for any person to knowingly capture or kill a manta ray in Hawaiian waters. While no fishery currently exists in Hawaii for manta rays, there are fisheries throughout South East Asia and Indonesia to provide meat, skins, and branchial elements that are being used in traditional Asian medicines. The demand for branchial elements (gill rakers and filaments) has been especially detrimental for manta ray populations in the areas they are fished. This law will protect manta rays in Hawaii from any future fishing pressure, and provides a way to prosecute senseless killings like the spotted eagle ray that was found last year with a spear through it in Honokohau Harbor.
The law does allow for manta rays to be taken under a special activity permit. However, this take is not to exceed the potential biological removal (PBR) level, which is a very conservative level of take designed to keep the mantas at their optimum sustainable population size. While it is important to allow for the possible take of manta rays for educational or research purposes, limiting the take to the PBR will insure that any permitted removal of manta rays from the population will not affect the overall health of the population. This is the same level of protection afforded marine mammals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and is based on the population size and life history characteristics of the species.
While we are happy with the protection manta rays will be getting in Hawaii, the job is not over! Our research on the movement patterns and habitat use of manta rays shows that while some manta rays are residents to particular locations, others regularly migrate over hundreds of miles. While resident coastal populations like we find in Hawaii can be protected with local legislation, more migratory populations will need more regional protection. MPRF will continue to address these issues through research, education, and eventually legislative processes. We look forward to your continued support in these efforts as we continue to learn about and protect these wonderful animals.
Many mahalos (thanks) to the following groups for supporting this tremendous effort!
Animal Rights Hawaii
Foundation for the Protection of Marine Megafauna
Friends of Pebble Beach
The Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research, Inc.
The Hawaii Audubon Society
Hawaii Wildlife Fund
The Humane Society of the United States
Maldivian Manta Ray Project
The Manta Network
Maui Tomorrow Foundation
National Geographic Traveler
Ocean Blue Education
Ocean Tourism Coalition
The Office of Hawaiian Affairs
Save Our Seas