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Translating policy into practice for Manta Rays in Indonesia
Between 2014 and 2015, WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) helped secure the arrest of 17 major illegal shark and ray traders in Indonesia, 9 of whom have received prison sentences or steep fines. These prosecutions are the first under Indonesia’s new nationwide protection of manta rays, and the first prosecutions for illegal trade in marine species in Indonesia. Prices for, and availability of, manta gill plates at two well-known landing sites have now fallen as traders have begun to stop buying mantas. Manta fishers are now requesting assistance to transition to other livelihoods or fisheries.
Globally, an estimated 100 million sharks and rays are killed each year—about 7% of the population. The rate of loss exceeds growth rates and explains ongoing global population declines. In March 2013, the Sixteenth Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) voted to list five shark species and all manta rays on CITES Appendix II, a key step toward regulating their commercial trade. Much of the trade originates from Indonesia, the world’s largest shark and ray fishery. Following the CITES listing, the Indonesian government worked with WCS and partners to better understand the current trade and to initiate a policy process to regulate it. In early 2014, Indonesia declared mantas as a protected species and banned all fishing and commercial trade: a significant milestone. WCU is a WCS-facilitated partnership of government agencies, civil society organizations, volunteer informant networks, and the media, that has been working since 2003 to combat trafficking of tigers, orangutans, and other protected species in Indonesia. This has resulted in the successful prosecution of more than 300 poachers and traffickers. With key support from WCU, the first ever arrest of a manta ray trader under the new regulation was made in August 2014. A series of arrests have since been made. The initial successes, achieved in only a few months, demonstrate the viability of this project’s approach. The challenge now is to shut down the trade across Indonesia.
Between mid- 2014 and the end of 2015, investigations by WCU uncovered more than 30 manta traders across Indonesia, 17 of whom were arrested.24, 25 The first prosecutions under the new law were completed in early 2015, and at the time of writing, 8 of the traders have been imprisoned (between 2 and 18 months) and received fines ranging from $100 to $5,000 dollars,24 3 traders have received fines, 1 received a warning, and 5 cases are still being processed by the courts or are under investigation.
In response to efforts by WCS and partners, in early 2014 the Ministry for Marine Affairs and Fisheries of Indonesia banned all fishing and trade of manta rays across Indonesia, including the country’s 6 million km2 exclusive economic zone, previously the world’s largest
Ministry of Fisheries personnel display confiscated manta ray gills at their offices in Negara, Jembrana, Bali, November 10, 2014.
Following Indonesia’s ban on commercial trade of manta rays, WCS’s Wildlife Crime Unit has helped secure the first ever arrests and prosecutions of manta ray traffickers.