The Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister has declared the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) and oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) as protected fish species as they are facing an increased threat of extinction.
"In the beginning of 2014, we have decided on the protection of two manta ray species," said Fisheries and Maritime Affairs Minister Sharif C.Sutardjo on Tuesday as quoted by Antara news agency.
The protection on the two manta ray species is stipulated in fisheries and maritime affairs ministerial decree (Permen) No.04/2014 on manta ray protection status.
During the last 10 years, the reef manta ray and oceanic manta ray populations have experienced quite an extreme decline of between 33 percent and 57 percent.
The decline has mostly occurred in areas where mantas are hunted by traditional fishermen in Nusa Tenggara waters such as in Alor, Flores, Lamakera, Lamalera and Lombok. They catch around 900-1,300 manta rays annually.
However, manta rays face the threat of extinction primarily due to overfishing driven by the high demand for their fish gills being used as traditional medicine in China.
"Mantas are our asset as an attraction for maritime tourism in Berau [East Kalimantan]; Komodo Islands in East Nusa Tenggara; Nusa Penida, Bali; and Raja Ampat [West Papua]," said Sharif.
One individual manta ray can contribute an economic value of Rp 9.75 billion (US$799,500) throughout its life, whereas dead the fish sells for only Rp 1 million each. (ebf)