Thank you Exmouth and Coral Bay, Western Australia for hosting the first Manta Ray Black Tie Ball in support of Project AWARE. Congratulations and countless thanks to Diana Belton and Alice Martino for organising this amazing event. This incredible duo went above and beyond to create a truly memorable evening for everyone to enjoy. It’s the magic of swimming with manta rays that inspired Diana and Alice to organise the event which raised an amazing AUD $16,000.
"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,"”Diana Belton
Originally from Canada, Diana spends her days as a manta tour guide in the heart of the Ningaloo Reef Marine Park. She’s passionate about protecting manta rays. Alice swapped the waters of Lake Como, Italy for the Ningaloo Reef and is mad about mantas!
“We swim with mantas almost everyday and get to see them enjoy their natural habitat. Mantas should be safe to swim ocean wide not only in dedicated marine parks. As divers we want the chance to see manta rays everywhere these animals choose to populate.
“We hope one day everywhere can benefit from eco tourism just like Coral Bay. Here we're fortunate to have a strong population of coastal manta rays and manta ray tourist experiences take place daily,” said Diana.
Like many AWARE divers around the globe, the community of Coral Bay was thrilled and buzzing over the CITES success in March this year. Coral bay is a small hamlet in Western Australia that survives from eco-tourism. Around 1.8 million dollars is generated from manta ray tours on a yearly basis.
"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," added Diana.
Scuba divers have a strong voice and we’re achieving major milestones together. With a passion for the ocean like no other, divers are naturally concerned about declines in marine species and your generous donations will help protect threatened species.
International trade in gill rakers – the tight-knit, feathery structures these filter feeders use to strain plankton – is driven by Asian markets for Chinese medicine and poses an immediate threat to their survival. Thanks to Migration Media, a local production company, who produced a video specifically for the event to raise awareness about the plight of manta rays: “Stop the Demand. Breaking the cycle of the manta ray trade.” The video features local Coral Bay researcher Frazer McGregor who also contributed to the CITES campaign.
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.
Local Exmouth Band Cape Collective started the night playing to guests gathered around the red carpet for photos and champagne. The silent auction was opened and Lightening Jack, from Corney Music, took it away to ensure a night of enjoyment, dancing, awareness, and amazing prices. New PADI Divemaster Jessica Jones worked the bar 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
A big shout out and thank you to Diana, Alice and everyone involved from Coral Bay to Exmouth as well as those who hosted mini events and donated around the world.