February 2023: Proposed Regulations for Manta Ray Tourism in Hawaii [VIDEO]

Feb 19, 2023 | How to Protect Manta Rays, Swimming with Manta Rays

It took nine years.

It took a tragedy.

Regulations are way overdue.

Finally, a public hearing to regulate the manta ray tour businesses along the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii is happening on February 23, 2023. In the video below, I tell you what I think about the proposed regulations (in short, I’m all for it and we desperately need your support!). Scroll down below the video to find out what YOU can do to protect manta rays today.

Video: History and Review of Proposed Regulations Package

00:00 – 00:26 Introduction
00:27 – 05:33 History of the Kona Manta Ray Tour Industry (1991-2023)
05:34 – 05:57 The tragedy of losing Theresa Butts
05:58 – 07:13 The craziness at the viewing sites
07:14 – 07:57 Make Your Voice Heard: Submit testimony
07:58 – 12:55 Key Elements of the Proposed Rules
12:56 – 14:02 Suggested Modification to the Proposed Rules
14:03 – 15:10 Final Thoughts and Call to Action

If you don’t have time to watch the video right now, know that I believe these proposed regulations are very much overdue, and we need all the support we can get to fight the apathy and raise awareness about the lack of rules to regulate manta ray tourism.

Public Hearing on February 23rd, 2023

Finally, the public hearing to regulate the manta ray tour businesses along the Kona Coast on the Big Island of Hawaii is happening on February 23, 2023.

This blog post is for all the folks who are looking for resources and a deeper understanding of the complexity of this world-famous night ocean activity that many call an “Experience of a Lifetime”.

The regulatory process has begun, so we will update the post when they become available.

 Official Notice of Public Hearing

Date of Public Hearing: Thursday, February 23, 2023, from 10.30 AM to 12.30 AM

Location: West Hawaii Civic Center Community Meeting Hale

Official DLNR Notice of Public Hearing: https://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/notice-of-public-hearing-for-proposed-manta-ray-rules/

Call to Action: Email Your Testimony

Let’s be the voice for the voiceless gentle giants. We appreciate your effort, and your call to action is simple:

Email your testimony of why you believe the manta tour businesses need to be regulated to this email address: dlnr.harreview@hawaii.gov

I prepared a sample text for you to make it as straightforward as possible:

I support implementing the proposed rules to bring safety and order to a highly sought-after ocean activity. I did the manta activity myself, and while I was mesmerized by the beautiful manta rays, I was simultaneously heartbroken by the sheer number of boats and participants. This is not sustainable for many reasons and has not been for a long time. Please consider regulating the industry rather than locations to avoid repeating the environmental damage and endangerment of marine and human life. Thank you.

The Dark Side of popular Manta Ray Tourism

These proposed regulations for manta ray tourism in Hawaii are much needed to protect both manta rays and humans involved.

Graphic showing how hull lights attract manta rays to the boats and has them come too close to the boat's propeller and other hardware

Every night is one night too many to use hull lights on boats

Subsurface lights (aka hull lighting) hurts manta rays

Hull Lighting refers to lights that are installed below the waterline and onto a boat’s hull or located so close to the boat’s hardware that the Manta Rays collide with sharp, blunt, or immovable objects. Hull lights are a troubling change to the way this activity is staged. We have seen and documented serious injuries. Operators who use hull lighting create an unsafe feeding environment for the mantas and put them at unnecessary risk for injuries.

Another night is too long to use hull lights.

Propellers on the boats can be fatal

Some boats do not hook up to moorings or anchor, but instead “dwell” at the site with engines (and propellers) running. Check out the video here for propeller strike evidence to mantas. Tragically, we also have to mourn a human fatality. Enough! Regulations will stop the live-boating!

Oversaturation of manta ray tours

Every activity has a capacity. Over-capacity poses a threat to the safety of everyone involved. The proposed rules will address this issue and limit the number of bot operators. Let’s bring safety, sanity and organization back to the manta ray experience.

Find out more about the different threats that manta rays face in the article below to better understand what the proposed regulations could change for both mantas and humans!

Protecting Manta Rays in Hawaii

Related reading (How YOU can Help!)

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE DIVING IN WITH THE MANTA RAYS

If you’re thinking about booking a manta ray activity, do it “the right way”.

This guide contains everything you need to know to book a tour with a “greenlisted” tour operator, learn about the safety guidelines for interacting with manta rays, and properly prepare for the adventure of a lifetime.

It’s a great FREE resource for anyone who’s getting ready to experience the manta rays firsthand.

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