There is little known about the lives of Manta Rays, but thanks to a handful of people, that is changing. This week we had Julie Hartup on island who is Manta Trust’s Guam-based Micronesia and Marianas Islands project leader.
She is working with Mark Deakos Ph.D. with the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research on identifying a new manta ray behavior as part of her own research project.
Yap is Micronesia’s, and arguably the world’s, manta ray hotspot that provides researchers like Julie and Mark a playground to uncover the secret lives of these resident rays.
Bill supports her conservation efforts with a free-of-charge open door policy and a Yap Divers boat fleet blank check creating a research center right here in Yap.
Mantas are spotted all over this island by divers, fisherman even beach goers. Julie is making it her life’s work to find out what they do, where and why while testing her own scientific theories.
Research isn’t all fun and games, even if it means you’re diving Yap for a week.
Half of their days were spent idling around the lagoon looking for surface activity in areas where we don’t dive and people don’t fish. Rays were spotted backflipping over the outer reef in the Philippine Sea, breaching in the channels near cleaning stations and transiting deep water in and out of the blue.
Data is collected and fed into a custom, relational database that will help to understand patterns of manta ray behavior, individual life histories, and eventually the size and home range of Yap’s reef associated population.
Although Yap is the world’s first government-backed manta ray sanctuary, there are few resources to patrol and enforce every square mile of water. The more information gathered and processed, the better the chance these rays will survive their man-made challenges. Manta populations are especially vulnerable to fishing and “by-catch” deaths due to their slow reproductive and maturation rates.
Be part of the manta ID database by submitting your own belly shots to firstname.lastname@example.org. The tedious work of databasing photos and sighting information is well underway which will eventually allow for robust reporting and tracking to help uncover their mysterious nature and guide conservation efforts.
You can stay updated on Julie’s work with Micronesia’s manta rays through MantaTrust.org and here on our blog with posts from her visits to Yap.