Project Manta

September was marked by another successful trip at Lady Elliot Island with lots of feeding mantas, whales, turtles and cocktails.

Thanks you so much to our Earthwatch volunteers who again have greatly helped us during this field trip. Over 20 manta rays were seen during that week, most of them were already in our database. This helps to confirm the degree of fidelity these animals have to this site as they seem to always come back to the island. Some of the volunteers were also lucky to witness what was probably the last moments of courtship behaviour with one male dancing with a female, looping around in gracious slow motion.

We would like to also thank the LEI resort staff for their on-going support and wonderful enthusiasm for our research. It is always refreshing and heartening to see so much interest.

Our next field trip to Lady Elliot Island will be from the 11th-18th February 2012 and we are very much looking forward to it.

Other trips this year will be held on June 23rd -30th 2012 and September 12th-19th 2012.

For more information contact volunteer@earthwatch.org.au
or visit http://www.earthwatch.org/australia/exped/townsend

Note: The mantas pictured are named after Lady Elliot Island's Peter Gash and his family!

News and Updates
Dear Project MANTA contributors,
It has been four months since our last updates. Time goes by so fast and the mantas are keeping us busy. We have a lot to share with you!
We are still amazed by the wonderful and never-ending support we have received. Again, we would like to thank you for contributing so usefully to our research.
ODEX success
We had the great opportunity to participate at the ODEX 2011 held in Brisbane last October. This event was a big success as we finally met many of our supporters and managed to convince more to join our research. It was also a good occasion to connect with many interested ecotourism companies from all over the Indo-Pacific and to share our passion for manta rays. We had a lot of fun and hope we will be able to take part in another exhibition in the future. You can watch our ODEX interview at http://vimeo.com/31660336
Manta rays at NSI
The manta season at North Stradbroke Island (NSI) has definitely kicked in quickly this summer, with over 30 mantas already photographed at Manta Bommie. Most of them have been seen previously at Lady Elliot Island, NSI and/or Byron Bay. Mantas are usually around NSI, Byron Bay and the Solitary Islands until April-May, so don’t miss out this year, grab your camera and go meet these majestic creatures.
One particular manta made its mark on several divers’ memories at NSI last month….
“The visibility that day wasn’t great, maybe 8 metres max. The first time Eclipse passed us, she took us by surprise, overtaking us in one flap, giving us a fright when her gigantic black shadow passed over the top of us. She is one of the intriguing black mantas, with only a small white patch present between her gills. She started to get cleaned at one of the bommies, making sure she grasped all the divers’ attention by coming really close, making direct eye contact with everyone. That is the beauty of manta rays; they just have to look at you to make you feel special and lose any notion of the outside world apart for this beautiful black eye trying to connect with you. She was huge! Her mouth was easily 1 m wide and her wingspan no less than 5 m. She is one of these beautiful and charismatic females that does not have one bite or scratch on her body, suggesting a great ability to evade/avoid danger. This is one memory I will keep and treasure for a very long time and I wish everyone could experience such an exceptional connection at least once in their life.”
Don’t miss out on MANTA FEST at Manta Lodge and Scuba Centre on the 11th-12th February 2012 at North Stradbroke Island. Manta ray diving, manta ray educational talk by Project MANTA, great people and a BBQ are on the list. Contact Manta Lodge at 0734098888
Field trip at NSI
Although the weather has not really been playing along, we have managed to go out in the field at NSI to deploy 3 more acoustic tags and collect 7 biopsy samples. Valuable new data about their habits and diet will be gained from these particular mantas.
We understand that some people may have some concerned about our methods and we are happy to discuss it personally. When tagging or taking tissue samples, we always aim for the wing of the manta well away from any vital organs. The manta rays are sometimes startled, but in most cases individuals are back again at their cleaning station a few minutes later. The tags usually detach from the animal after a few months with little or no lasting effect. The data obtained from these studies are invaluable for the future conservation and protection of manta rays and their habitat.
Byron Bay mantas
The support by divers from Sundive and Byron Bay Scuba dive centre has been overwhelming this year with the manta season this year proving to be exceptional at this location. We are very grateful to all the people involved for keeping us up to date with the manta comings and goings and for providing amazing ID photos.
One particular manta seem to really enjoy hanging around Byron Bay divers, her name is Julia (#435) and she was first photographed and named by John Natoli in April 2010. Since then she has been sighted 6 times at the same location, and was last seen the 18th January 2012. If
you are going diving to Julian Rocks, make sure you keep an eye for this young female, she is worth the encounter.
Manta ray database
We now have over 630 mantas identified with over 50% sighted at least twice within the last 4 years, indicating a good degree of residency to eastern Australia. We are still receiving a lot of photos that will keep us busy for a while! Thank you so much to all our contributors, the information obtained from these photos significantly increases our knowledge on the east Australian manta rays, allowing us to identify population trends and explore movements and migration patterns.
Remember, if a new manta is identified from YOUR photos, you get to NAME YOUR OWN MANTA
Manta Matcher
A new worldwide manta ray database is now available online. This new website will allow international collaboration between manta scientists who monitor manta ray populations all around the world. Project MANTA will be participating in this great initiative by uploading the east Australian database. All photographs will be associated with the photographer’s name and will be protected so no one can use them without permission. We will of course contact everyone who has been contributing with photos to make sure they are happy to share their photos on this new global database.
Manta Matcher is a great collaborative initiative that will greatly contribute in the scientific knowledge of manta rays worldwide and aid the protection of the species and their habitat.
For more information visit: http://www.mantamatcher.org/

Lady Elliot Island
September was marked by another successful trip at Lady Elliot Island with lots of feeding mantas, whales, turtles and cocktails.
Thanks you so much to our Earthwatch volunteers who again have greatly helped us during this field trip. Over 20 manta rays were seen during that week, most of them were already in our database. This helps to confirm the degree of fidelity these animals have to this site as they seem to always come back to the island. Some of the volunteers were also lucky to witness what was probably the last moments of courtship behaviour with one male dancing with a female, looping around in gracious slow motion.
We would like to also thank the LEI resort staff for their on-going support and wonderful enthusiasm for our research. It is always refreshing and heartening to see so much interest.
Our next field trip to Lady Elliot Island will be from the 11th-18th February 2012 and we are very much looking forward to it.
Other trips this year will be held on June 23rd -30th 2012 and September 12th-19th 2012.
For more information contact volunteer@earthwatch.org.au
or visit http://www.earthwatch.org/australia/exped/townsend

Manta Ray of Hope Report
Project MANTA has contributed to a major report on the global threat to manta and mobula rays. This report will greatly contribute towards the conservation of mobulid rays (= manta ray and devil rays)
“Manta Ray of Hope: The Global Threat to Manta and Mobula Rays” is a comprehensive report documenting worldwide manta and mobula declines due to the trade in their gills. The report provides the most far-reaching research ever conducted into both the intensive overfishing of mantas and mobulas as well as the trade in their gill rakers that are driving mantas and mobulas to the point of potential population collapse.
You can see the full press release and download the report on our website at https://sites.google.com/site/projectmantasite/home/news
Or visit directly http://www.mantarayofhope.com
Code of conduct
After discussing with several divers and noticing the behaviour of some people towards mantas, we have decided to create a “recommended code of conduct” or “the best way to experience manta rays”. After 5 years diving with these majestic creatures, we believe that these few tips will help people make the most of their unique experience with limited disturbance for the manta.
Do not hesitate to contact us if you have any question or suggestions
You can download this code of conduct from https://sites.google.com/site/projectmantasite/home/diving-with-mantas--...
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Visit our website: http://sites.google.com/site/projectmantasite/
Visit our Facebook fan page to follow our adventures, share your manta experience(s) or ask us questions: http://www.facebook.com/pages/PROJECT-MANTA-The-manta-rays-of-eastern-Au...
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, we will be more than happy to help you out.
We are looking forward to hearing from you and seeing your photos!
All the best,
THE PROJECT MANTA TEAM
Lydie Couturier, Fabrice Jaine, Kathy Townsend, Scarla Weeks, Anthony Richardson, Mike Bennett