Jakarta (2 February 2015) – An Indonesian court has sentenced an illegal trader in manta ray parts to one year and four months in prison and a USD $5,000 fine. This verdict is the first law enforcement action under the new manta protection decree approved early in 2014, and represents a tough, new stance by the Ministry of Marine Affairs and Fisheries, Government of Indonesia (MMAF) to protect manta rays and stop illegal fishing and trading.
The trader, named Wrd, was convicted by District Court on January 27th in Cirebon, West Java. He was arrested by MMAF on last September with 27 kg of manta plates worth USD $4,500, and charged with violations under licensing provisions in the Fisheries Law.
Between August and September 2014, MMAF working with WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit, arrested five suspected manta ray traders in Indramayu and Surabaya, on the island of Java, and in Bali. MMAF confiscated a total of 138 kg of manta plates, 1 whole manta, and 558 kg of manta bones as the evidence.
Currently, two of the suspected traders of manta plates, named Seb and Shr, are on trial separately in Surabaya and Bali. Seb was arrested in Surabaya last August with 8 kg manta plates while Shr arrested in Bali in September with 103 kg of manta plates.
Director General for Marine, Coastal and Small Island Affairs, Dr. Sudirman Saad said: “Manta rays are a threatened fish species and full protection of manta had been stipulated through the Minister of Marine Affairs and Fisheries Decree No 04/KEPMEN-KP/2014. Under this act, any fishing or trading of manta rays or their body parts are prohibited, and violation of act will be sentenced by law.”
Last year, MMAF officially banned the hunting and trade of manta rays in Indonesia.
Violators are subject to a maximum eight years in prison and fines of up to USD $150,000, under the licensing provisions in the Fisheries Law.
Dr. Noviar Andayani, Country Director of Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) Indonesia Program said: “WCS greatly appreciates the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect manta rays and marine biodiversity in Indonesia. We hope that commitment and cooperation among stakeholders including NGOs such as WCS will be increased in the future.”
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 two 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.
WCS’s Wildlife Crimes Unit (WCU) operates in Indonesia to provide data and technical advice to law enforcement agencies to support the investigation and prosecution of wildlife crimes. The WCU’s most recent success was assisting the Government of Indonesia’s smashing of a tiger poaching ring earlier last 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. The initial development and establishment of the Wildlife Crimes Unit was done with the sustained support of the Liz Claiborne and Art Ortenberg Foundation and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Multinational Species Conservation Funds. 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 marine conservation work in Indonesia, including the marine Wildlife Crimes Unit, has been made possible through the generous support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. In addition, Conservation International provided financial support to WCS for this manta enforcement work, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation and the David and Lucile Packard Foundation have also funded Conservation International’s policy work in Indonesia on sharks and rays.
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.
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.