New legislation gives full protection to manta rays in all Indonesian waters effectively creating the world’s largest protected area for these migratory animals. A recent government-backed review showed a single manta ray was worth one million dollars in tourism revenue over its lifetime.
The Indonesian government on Friday announced that manta rays within the archipelago's 5.8 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) of ocean will be protected from fishing and export.
Conservationists point to simple economics as an incentive. According to a study published last year in the online journal PLoS One, a manta ray is worth up to $1 million (£600,000) over the course of its long lifetime, thanks to tourism. This compares to between US$40 and US$500 if caught and killed
The regulation was passed January 28 and came a year after the local government in Raja Ampat announced the creation of a 46,000-square-kilometre shark and ray sanctuary.
Conservation groups are now working to teach fishermen about the value of keeping the mantas alive, while business people, the military, water police and local officials are being engaged to assist.
However, there will likely be difficulties enforcing the law over such a huge area. Policing the sanctuary and ensuring that poachers are caught will be Indonesia's next challenge.
Given the huge area of reefs and island of our country, if managed properly, Indonesia could become the top manta tourism destination on the planet.
—Agus Dermawan, Indonesia's marine affairs ministry.