Silhouette of a reef manta ray gliding by in Hanifaru Bay, beneath a trio of snorkellers.
Populations of manta rays face substantial threats from fishing around the world. Each year, hundreds fall victim to bycatch in ghost nets and commercial fisheries targeting other species. Many are still caught illegally as part of targeted fisheries hunting them for their gill plates, which are used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
However, the Maldives is a shining example of how much more valuable mantas are alive than dead. Thousands of tourists flock to the island nation each year, particularly to the world-renowned Hanifaru Bay protected area in Baa Atoll, in the hope of encountering these gentle giants. Manta ray tourism contributes an estimated US$10 million per annum to the Maldivian economy.
It's important that we remember to celebrate the Maldivians's foresight to protect their manta ray population, in the hope that other nations will strive to follow in their footsteps.