Kill a Manta Ray, Go to Jail

Indonesia for the first time imprisons a poacher of the protected marine animal.

(Photo: Paul Hilton/Greenpeace)

Feb 2, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Emily J. Gertz is an associate editor for environment and wildlife at TakePart.

An Indonesian court has sentenced an illegal trader in imperiled manta rays to 16 months in prison and fined him $5,000.

The sentence “represents a tough new stance by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries [of the] Government of Indonesia to protect manta rays and stop illegal fishing and trading,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

It’s the first conviction under Indonesia’s 2014 law banning fishing and export of manta rays, according to WCS, which last year assisted Indonesia in investigating the illegal trade.

The effort led to a number of stings in August and September that recovered more than 1,400 pounds of manta rays and manta ray parts.

Between August and September 2014, Indonesian authorities arrested five suspected manta ray traders and confiscated 1,400 pounds of manta ray parts destined for China’s market in medicinal supplies. (Photo: Paul Hilton, WCS)

Two other illegal traders are on trial separately in Jakarta.

Also in 2014, Indonesia created the world’s biggest manta ray sanctuary, totaling 2.2 million square miles of offshore waters surrounding the archipelago nation. It’s part of the nation’s effort to transform its mantas from a fishery into a tourist draw.

Flores Island and Bali, among other spots in Indonesia, are already destinations for people hoping to watch and dive among manta rays. This ecotourism trade is worth several times more than the estimated $30 million on the black market for ray parts.

Manta rays can grow up to 23 feet long and 25 feet from wingtip to wingtip. These giant flat fish can live for about two decades, and they bear a single manta pup once every two years. This slow reproductive pace makes rays especially vulnerable to overexploitation as a resource.

Ecuador, Mexico, New Zealand, and the Philippines have also fully banned manta ray fishing and exports.