A new study published in PLoS ONE shows that manta ray tourism is worth more to national economies than manta fisheries.

The study on the global economic impact of manta ray watching tourism compares the economic impact of tourism and fisheries in 23 countries around the world.

Courtesy NOAA

Courtesy NOAA

In Indonesia—one of the top three destinations for manta ray watching in the world—manta tourism contributes an estimated US$15 million to the economy every year. Meanwhile the total annual income from Indonesia’s manta ray fisheries is just US$ 442,000.

In recent years, manta rays have increasingly been targeted for their gill rakers to supply the Traditional Chinese Medicine trade. While this trade is highly lucrative to traders and retailers in market countries, very little of the profits make their way back to the people in source countries such as Indonesia.

With their low reproductive cycles, mantas are particularly sensitive to overfishing. This new study clearly indicates the economic value of protecting and promoting key manta ray tourism destinations.

written by

Andrew Harvey