March 2013, a time to celebrate. The first step for the protection of manta rays was put into place, with Appendix II protection under CITES.
The community of Coral Bay was thrilled and buzzing over such news as our local researcher Frazer McGregor contributed to this campaign. Coral bay is a small hamlet in WA Australia that survives from eco-tourism and approx. 1.8 million is from manta ray tours on a yearly basis. We're fortunate to have a strong population of coastal manta rays and manta ray tourist experiences take place daily. It's a place with high petrol prices, high food costs (it cost me $33 AU dollars for the ingredients for a ham and cheese sandwich the other day!!), and it's a remote place where internet shopping is a way of life. With all of these factors in place you can see how well eco-tourism can sustain a community. No one is in want for anything, everyone has cars, boats, food, clothes and can still afford nights out at the pub. Manta rays do not have to be used for the gill market to feed ones family, they can be enjoyed for their beauty and grace during a snorkel in the bay.
Bright and early one morning I made my way to Ali’s house, she still had sleep in her eyes when I told her what I wanted to do and that it could not happen without her. She had no idea what she was getting into but agreed (I think just to get rid of me so she could return to her slumber). The love for mantas is so strong in this area between Exmouth and Coral Bay, that the more myself and Ali learned about the gill raker trade the stronger we felt about showing the world how you can survive co existing with mantas and not fishing them. So the Manta Black Tie Ball started to manifest itself.
A few days later we got into full swing, quickly learning that we had a lot of hours ahead of us, to make the Manta Ball a success and to raise the awareness that we hoped for. We put letters out trying to wrangle up sponsors from Exmouth and Coral Bay. How hard can it be, we thought, everyone profits from them of course they would want to be a part of it. That thought turned out to be true, Exmouth and Coral Bay together created the most successful conservation effort that we had ever seen in this small community.
Dressed in black tie, frocks and frills everyone showed up on the night of August 16th to enjoy a night of media productions, entertainment, food, and some competitive bidding at the silent auction table.
A local band from Exmouth “Cape Collective” started the night off while the guests were gathering around the red carpet for photos and champagne. Migration Media, a local production company, followed with “Stop the Demand. Breaking the cycle of the manta ray trade” which was produced specifically for the event. This was uploaded to go live over the internet; as at the same time as the ball, there were also some other black and white nights going on around the world, such as Canada, Perth, England and Italy to spread the awareness even that much further. The silent auction was opened and Lightening Jack, from Corney Music, took it away to ensure a night of dancing, awareness, and amazing prices was enjoyed to the fullest extent. New PADI Divemaster Jessica Jones worked the bar for us and was thrilled to receive the door prize, a two night live aboard with the Rodney Fox crew in South Australia. With 50 amazing auction prizes to help raise funds and international support from the States and Canada the event was a huge success raising $16,000 AUD for Project AWARE. “Raising Awareness Can Inspire Change”!
The gill raker trade has made a massive impact in the last decade reducing the global population of manta rays by 86%. This is not sustainable as they have long gestation periods and only one pup at a time. You can find the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MJWIcVPBp4, and follow myself and Ali on our blog site oceanmission.wordpress.com to read more about what is happening and to keep updated on the plight of the mantas and our oceans.
Coral Bay is one of the places in the world where you can stay in a beautiful caravan park such as Peoples Park, enjoy a swim with the mantas and be delighted by the food head Chef Matt Lupton from Fins has prepared; all within five minute walk from where ever you are. Thank you Coral Bay and Exmouth for your amazing support !!!!!