Over the past month, scientists working with the Micronesian Conservation Coalition (MCC) have been growing concerned over the increased disruption and impacts to the local manta ray natural habitats.
Scientists are seeking support from the island community to preserve the habitats of the small population of Guam manta rays.
The MCC and scientists recognize and understand the enthusiasm for the Guam mantas, evidenced by the growing number of curious residents and visitors in the habitat area.
However, the researchers have witnessed and documented excessive chasing and touching of the mantas, which are resulting in distressed behavioral changes in such a short time.
The impact includes the noticeable departure of members of this very small group of manta rays, a documented micro-population of fifty-three (53). More importantly, these undue interactions are changing the natural mating and feeding behaviors of the Guam mantas.
The organization and its supporters are respectfully appealing to recreational ocean enthusiasts to please avoid the manta rays’ habitat area. Snorkelers or paddles boards congregating at one time creates a “hard surface” on the water.
This negatively impacts the mantas as they feed around the reefs and cruise along the ocean surface to feed. Also, human presence impacts mating patterns, as they move from the ocean deep to the surface, sometimes involving individual mantas leaping out of the water. Creating a “hard surface” on the water makes it impossible for mantas to exhibit natural behaviors in smaller, shallower areas.
“We are very concerned about the increased traffic of people in the mantas’ habitat, as this introduces an unnatural interference. The mantas target certain fish spawn in the area, which are also disturbed by excessive human presence.
The mantas are unable to feed unobstructed or even perform natural mating patterns. When people dive down to take photos, this cuts off the unique ‘mating chain,’ as male mantas pursue a single female manta,” shares MCC Executive Director, Julie Hartup.
The organization’s plea is to respect and not disturb these areas to help maintain the ecosystem mantas need to survive. Swimmers, divers, paddlers, and motor operated
ocean vessels are asked to please understand and help protect the sensitive, unique, and small population of Guam mantas rays.