Guy Harvey Magazine

SPR 2011

Guy Harvey Magazine is focused on fishing, boating, scuba diving, and marine conservation. Portfolios from the world's best fishing photographers, articles on gear, travel, tournaments, apparel, lifestyle, seafood recipes, sustainable fisheries.

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animals. Every day there are dramas involving anchors dropped near divers, anchored boats swinging into other boats or snagging their anchor lines, boats busting up groups of mantas, and divers surfacing into the path of moving boats. Some mantas show injuries consistent with boat collisions (and many have scars from fishing gear), but it’s a miracle no humans have been mutilated. One might imagine that most of the people who would pay thousands of dollars and travel thousands of miles to visit a unique- on-the-planet location where mantas engage in a mass-feeding phenomenon that is not known to occur anywhere else on earth would be experienced divers who had seen many mantas engaged in more ordinary behaviors and were intrigued by this unique and spectacular phenomenon. One would be mistaken. In fact, most visitors to Hanifaru Bay have never seen a manta before. Many are unable to swim, and stay afloat only with the aid of flotation vests. Rafts of non-swimmers float across the surface of the bay, heads out of the water, and swim fins pumping ineffectually under the surface. Some of the more accomplished swimmers dart rapidly in pursuit of the feeding mantas, even diving down to lay hands upon them, often surfacing with expressions of confusion and disgust upon discovering that the rough skin of mantas can cause abrasions and is covered with a dark slimy mucus that protects it from infections (which may result when this mucus is transferred to the hands of humans). Even divers who advertise their advanced level with specialized tech-diving gear and thousands of dollars worth of photo equipment seem oblivious to the unique feeding phenomenon that they disrupt by charging into the middle of a vortex and singling out one manta to photograph as they drive it away from its dance partners. Other photographers, however, seem to have done their homework, and are determined to surpass Peschak’s close-up of a feeding manta by actually shoving their underwater camera rigs – strobes and all – inside the mouths of feeding mantas. Proposals to regulate the chaos were set forth before the 2010 season, and the Save Our Seas Foundation (a partner of the Guy Harvey Research Institute) pledged funds to purchase a patrol boat, all to no avail. To date, proposals to establish regulations and an enforcement system in time for the 2011 season have been mired in partisan bickering – not surprising, considering that manta tourism is estimated to be worth over $8 million annually to the Maldives economy, with half a million dollars attributable to the manta aggregation at Hanifaru. To find out how management proposals are progressing, or not, check the Atoll Ecosystem Conservation Project website at www.biodiversity.mv. Comments may be sent to Abdulla Mohamed (abdulla.mohamed@environment.gov.mv) and Abdulla Shibau (abdulla.shibau@environment.gov.mv) at the AEC Project. 8LSYWERHW SJ WRSVOIPIVW ERH HMZIVW GSQI JVSQ EVSYRH XLI [SVPH XS QMRKPI [MXL XLI RYQIVSYW QERXEW SJ ,ERMJEVY &E] 7SQI I\TIVXW EVI GSRGIVRIH XLEX XSS QYGL LYQER MRXIVEGXMSR [MPP HMWVYTX XLI QERXE´W JIIHMRK TEXXIVRW www.guyharveymagazine.com 23

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