Site fidelity and movement patterns of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi: Mobulidae) using passive acoustic telemetry in northern Raja Ampat, Indonesia
Setyawan, E and Sianipar, AB and Erdmann, MV and Fischer, AM and Haddy, JA and Beale, CS and Lewis, SA and Mambrasar, R, Site fidelity and movement patterns of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi: Mobulidae) using passive acoustic telemetry in northern Raja Ampat, Indonesia, Nature Conservation Research, 3, (4) pp. 1-15. ISSN 2500-008X (2018) [Refereed Article]
Though extremely valuable to the local marine tourism industry, there is a dearth of published information on the ecology and population dynamics of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) in Raja Ampat, West Papua, Indonesia. Knowledge of the movement ecology in particular of this large and scattered population is urgently needed to better manage the rapidly expanding manta-focused tourism. Here we report the results of an initial passive acoustic telemetry study designed to provide local managers with the first detailed knowledge of the site use and movement patterns of reef mantas in northern Raja Ampat. A total of 39 reef mantas were tagged with Vemco V16 acoustic transmitters over a 15-month period between 27 November 2013 and 22 February 2015. To monitor their movements, VR2W acoustic receivers were deployed at eight sites corresponding to known manta cleaning and feeding aggregation sites, with receivers downloaded every six months over a two-year initial monitoring period. The duration between tag deployments and last date of detections at sites ranged from 1 to 682 days (mean ± SE = 237 ± 27). The cumulative number of days of manta detections at receiver sites by individual mantas ranged from 1 to 188 days (mean ± SE = 42 ± 7). Manta Ridge was the most popular site with 565 days of detections. The tagged mantas demonstrated strong site fidelity to the observed aggregation sites, but also exhibited seasonal movements within an approximately 150 km long corridor between sites in the Dampier Strait and the northwest of Waigeo Island. Data analysed from a nearby array of six VR2W receivers in southern Raja Ampat (approximately 180 km to the south of the study area) confirmed that none of the tagged mantas were detected in this array, providing further evidence of strong site fidelity and limited movements within the Raja Ampat Archipelago. More than 96% of detections occurred during the daytime. The number of detections reached a peak around noon at Yefnabi Kecil and Eagle Rock and slightly earlier at Manta Ridge. These findings have been shared with the Raja Ampat Marine Protected Area Management Authority and are now being used in the formulation of a management plan for this vulnerable and economically important species to ensure the long-term health of Raja Ampat’s reef mantas and the sustainability of manta tourism in the region.