Hawaii offers the amazing opportunity to experience manta rays in their natural environment. Manta rays have been attracted to the lighted viewing areas along the Kona coast for over 30 years; it’s a unique ocean adventure for travelers from all around the world.
This may seem like complete paradise; however, these incredible animals face a number of threats.
At Manta Ray Advocates, we make it our mission to educate as many people as possible about the gentle giants of the sea.
Why? Because we fell in love with this beautiful graceful intelligent fish. It’s as simple as that and I can assure you the same will happen to you. 🙂
But humans are humans, and it’s heartbreaking to realize that manta rays are a threatened species.
Unfortunately, there are many wrong assumptions surrounding their species and the dangers they’re facing. The purpose of this article is to teach how we can work together to protect the gentle giants, locally in Kona Hawaii and also worldwide.
Note: I have also recorded a video about this topic. If you would prefer to look & listen, click play to watch the video. If you prefer reading, read on below!
The Manta Ray Advocates’ Mission to Protect Marine Life
Throughout the years, our main goal as manta ray advocates has been to protect the mantas from harm.
We have pushed for a change in legislation because of the overcrowding of the viewing site and there is slow movement forward. However, until this new legislation has been passed (maybe 2021), the best we can do is share important knowledge about manta rays.
In addition to educating as many people as possible about the issues, we want to create awareness that we can all make a difference. We want to encourage YOU to take action as well.
How Hull Lights Impact Manta Rays in Hawaii
One issue that the mantas of Kona face is the use of hull lighting when people come to swim, snorkel and dive with manta rays at night.
Several boat operators installed bright lights on the hull of their boat to attract plankton, which in turn attracts manta rays. As the lights are placed far too close to the hardware (propeller and ladders), innocent manta rays get injured while feeding. This can lead to nasty cuts and bruises.
We’re working hard to get legislation in place that will better protect rays against this practice.
The Effect of Fishing Lines on Manta Rays
Hawaiian waters and in particular the Kona Coast have an incredible abundance of small and large marine life which makes it a prime destination for fishing.
But when manta rays get caught in those fishing lines and hooks, this can be life-threatening. This sometimes happens by accident, but also because of carelessness. It’s a major threat to all marine life – not just manta rays.
Unknowing Tourists Hurt Manta Rays by Touching Them
During our briefings for the manta ray experience, we make it always abundantly clear that the interaction with the manta rays is passive.
This means that if you swim, dive or snorkel with manta rays, you should never touch it. Not only can touching a manta ray damage the protective slime coating on their body, but you can also startle them and cause them to swim away very fast, colliding with people, the bottom or objects in their path.
Free Diving Disturbs Manta Rays when Feeding
Freediving means diving without using scuba equipment. It’s a beautiful and exciting sport that requires constantly returning back to the surface in order to breathe.
Manta rays rely on the designated water column at the viewing sites to safely swim through. They move in large loops and figures of eight in order to effectively capture the most plankton.
Guidelines urge all scuba divers to stay in constant contact with the sea bed so the water column stays free for the manta rays to use. Snorkelers are supposed to stay on the surface.
Sadly, free divers often enter the water column anyway – disturbing the manta rays while they’re feeding.
Diving down on manta rays frightens them the same way touching does. They interpret it as an attack and swim away.
Nothing good comes from free diving either!
Join Us in Making a Change by Raising Awareness
A few years ago, I joined the local Waimea Ocean Film Festival where my Dolphin Rescue Video was featured. My friend Stephanie Brendl was featuring her movie Extinction Soup, about the cruel and disturbing practice of shark finning.
Before this film and others were released, 9 out of 10 guests did not know about shark finning. After the movie came out, the ratio started to change; 3 years later, 95 per cent had heard about it.
This taught me that campaigning to raise awareness for the ocean works. It made me realize once again how important it is to speak up for the voiceless.
If everyone had a better understanding of environmental issues, specifically surrounding manta rays and marine preservation, the majority of threats to manta rays in Hawaii can decrease.
What Can You Do to Support Our Efforts?
There are 3 things you can do to raise awareness of what’s happening with manta rays in Hawaii:
- Download our Guide to Becoming a Manta Ray Advocate – learn all about the gentle giants of the sea, and tell all your friends about them.
- Follow us on Facebook or Instagram, and join our Facebook Community
- Get the children’s book “Notch, the Rescued Dolphin”. It tells the story of marine life in Hawaii with beautiful pictures.
If we keep treating the planet as we do right now, there will be massive consequences for everyone – not just the animals. It is about finding a sustainable balance between all species and I truly believe that every single one of us can make a difference.