• WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit Assists Ministry in Bust

  • Arrest marks latest enforcement action of Indonesia’s recent national protection of manta rays

  • Indonesia operates largest known shark and ray fisheries on earth
NEW YORK (November 12, 2014) – The Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries of the Republic of Indonesia and the WCS (Wildlife Conservation Society’s) Wildlife Crimes Unit announced the largest confiscation of illegal manta ray parts as part of a major enforcement action against illegal trade of sharks and rays in Indonesia, home to the largest shark fisheries on earth.

The most recent arrest, which took place Friday, November 7th, yielded the largest number of confiscated manta gill plates ever for Indonesia, involving a shipment of 103 kg (227 pounds) of gill plates. The arrest took place in suspect’s Shr’s house near Pengambengan Negara fisheries landing area in Bali.

The recent enforcement action follows three arrests earlier this month and in October involving illegal trade of manta ray meat and gill plates, sawfish snouts, and sea turtle meat.

Under Indonesian law, trafficking manta rays, their parts and by products is punishable with a penalty of 6 years maximum imprisonment and a maximum fine of USD $125,000; while for sea turtles and sawfish, the penalty is a maximum 5 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of USD $10,000.

“Today we have managed to thwart the illegal trading of a protected species which is part of world’s charismatic species diversity and nature’s heritage,” said Indonesia’s new Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Susu Pudjiastuti. “MMAF will continue the public campaign until all related stakeholders including fishermen and traders received clear information on the regulation.”

Joe Walston, WCS Vice President of Field Conservation, said: “This largest-ever confiscation of manta ray parts is showing the world that Indonesia is serious about enforcing this new law to protect this species from wildlife trafficking. We commend our partners in making these arrests.”

Reef (Manta alfredi) and oceanic (Manta birostris) manta rays are large, long-lived, plankton-eating cartilaginous fishes, relatives of sharks. Oceanic mantas can reach up to 7 meters (23 feet) in length from wing-tip to wing-tip, weigh over 2 tons, and live for at least 20 years. They have very low reproductive rates, giving birth to only one live pup every two years. A growing tourism trade based upon manta-watching is estimated to be worth $140 million annually, with Indonesia as one of the top-ten destinations.

Manta rays are increasingly targeted for their gill plates, the pre-branchial appendages that filter the plankton on which they feed. These gill plates are in demand in Chinese markets for use in a health tonic that is not recognized in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). One kilo of manta gill plates can fetch $250-$500 in China, and the total trade is worth $30 million annually. This growing trade is driving dramatic increases in largely unregulated manta fisheries that have depleted or are depleting manta populations. Both species are listed as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, the global threatened species list.

In February 2014, the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries (MMAF), with technical input from a coalition of conservation organizations, including Conservation International (CI), the Manta Trust, and WCS, banned the hunting and trade of manta rays throughout the total area of the country (6 million square kilometers or 2.3 million square miles).

The Ministry of Marine and Fisheries claimed that the state loss from illegal trade of manta gill plates trade is up to USD 20,000. However, the loss for marine ecotourism reached USD 615.7 million. It is assumed that the number of gill plates from the evidence is equal with up to 85 live manta rays that have at least a 40 years life span. A live manta ray will contribute USD 7.9 million towards marine ecotourism during its lifetime.

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit operates in Indonesia to provide data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies to support the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The Unit’s most recent success was assisting the Government of Indonesia’s smashing of a tiger poaching ring earlier this year.

WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit is supported by the Save Our Species Fund. Save Our Species is a joint initiative of the Global Environment Facility, IUCN and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure the long-term survival and well being of threatened species and their critical habitats for biodiversity conservation. WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit is also supported by the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service multinational species conservation funds. WCS’s marine conservation work in Indonesia has been made possible through the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation.

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation also supported Conservation International with the policy process that led to the decision by the Government of Indonesia to protect Manta rays in February 2014.

WCS has prioritized saving sharks and rays as part of a global commitment to promote the recovery of depleted and threatened populations of marine species, halt the decline of fragile marine ecosystems, and improve the livelihoods and resilience of coastal communities throughout the world's oceans.

WCS invests in a diverse array of long-term, seascape-scale conservation strategies across the waters of 20 countries and all five oceans to reverse the decline of marine ecosystems, restore populations of threatened marine species and improve coastal fisheries and livelihoods.

WCS inspires millions to take action for the oceans through the New York Aquarium and all WCS parks in New York City. To achieve long-term conservation goals, WCS marine conservationists work with local and national governments, as well as a range of local partners to improve management of coastal fisheries, mitigate key threats to marine species, expand effective marine protected areas, enhance ocean industry sustainability, and increase resilience to climate change. Collectively, these efforts aim to build broader and deeper public understanding, advance scientific knowledge, and strengthen political commitment to our oceans and the biodiversity and livelihoods they support.

STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
JOHN DELANEY: (1-718-220-3275; jdelaney@wcs.org)
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
MISSION: WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org ; http://www.facebook.com/TheWCS ; http://www.youtube.com/user/WCSMedia, Follow: @thewcs.

The MacArthur Foundation supports creative people and effective institutions committed to building a more just, verdant, and peaceful world. In addition to selecting the MacArthur Fellows, the Foundation works to defend human rights, advance global conservation and security, make cities better places, and understand how technology is affecting children and society. More information is at www.macfound.org.