Pub­lic to name manta ray

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A re­search pro­gram iden­ti­fy­ing the manta rays of Co­ral Bay has been ex­panded to in­clude the north­ern part of the Nin­ga­loo Reef to­wards Ex­mouth.

Project Manta has iden­ti­fied more than 800 man­tas around Co­ral Bay to date.

The re­search fo­cuses on how en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors af­fect the move­ment of man­tas and why they choose to oc­cupy par­tic­u­lar sites.

Univer­sity of Queens­land marine bi­ol­o­gist Kathy Townsend said the manta rays of the Nin­ga­loo Reef had shown unique be­hav­iour not seen on the east coast.

“The last field trip we did was the first time I had been to the Ex­mouth Gulf and it was re­ally fas­ci­nat­ing com­par­ing the east coast to the west coast,” she said.

“We rarely see man­tas on the East Coast in wa­ter less than 10m in depth, yet in Bate­man Bay you see them in al­most a me­tre of wa­ter. That was mind-blow­ing for me.

“That has some­thing to do with how the plank­ton col­lects in the shal­lows.

“It col­lects right up into the shal­lows and the man­tas are do­ing these amaz­ing bar­rel rolls, which you don’t see so much of on the east coast.”

Project Manta is also look­ing into where the man­tas of Nin­ga­loo are trav­el­ling out­side of the marine park, with con­cerns they are trav­el­ling to wa­ters at high risk of il­le­gal fish­ing, such as In­done­sia.

A pub­lic nam­ing com­pe­ti­tion for the 50th manta ray iden­ti­fied as part of Project Manta’s ex­pan­sion has been set up.

The win­ning en­try will win two Co­ral Bay Eco Tour tick­ets to swim with Nin­ga­loo manta rays.

Ex­mouth Vis­i­tor Cen­tre man­ager Kristy Bryan-Smith said snorkelling with man­tas was un­for­get­table as they loved in­ter­act­ing with swim­mers.

“Be­cause of the large res­i­dent pop­u­la­tion of manta rays, tours to swim with these huge but com­pletely harm­less and very play­ful crea­tures are avail­able ev­ery day of the year out of Co­ral Bay,” she said.

The manta ray to be named is a fe­male ray that was part of a large feed­ing ag­gre­ga­tion of man­tas that took place in Ex­mouth Gulf in Oc­to­ber.

Ms Townsend also en­cour­aged any­one with pho­tos of man­tas, new or old, to send them in to the project team.

“Cit­i­zen science is a huge part of what we do,” she said.

“Some­thing like 60 per cent of our database is pho­tos sent in.”

Ms Townsend said old pho­tos were im­por­tant as the jury was out on how long manta rays lived.

Pic­ture: John Mokrzy­cki

Project Manta has iden­ti­fied more than 800 man­tas around Co­ral Bay to date.

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