I recently returned from South Africa where I attended a conference and a workshop to help better understand current and develop new, much needed, global conservation strategies for sharks, as well as mantas and devil rays. In the past month, Project AWARE has joined leading researchers and policy experts to envision the future, verbalize clear goals, and discuss the actions needed to protect these species.
But what do global conservation strategies have to do with Tip #8 in Project AWARE’s new 10 Tips for Divers to Protect the Ocean Planet? More than you might think.
Tip #8: Be an Eco-tourist is all about recognizing your power as a scuba diver and making informed decisions when choosing and visiting a destination. Like sharks, mantas are at the top of every diver’s must-see list and manta based tourism can bring significant, lasting economic benefits to many local communities.
When it comes to eco-tourism, consumer power can be a strong influence for conservation – particularly when choosing facilities and operators that are dedicated to responsible social and environmental business practices. Your choices can support meaningful, alternative livelihoods in the communities you visit.
But tourism alone will not save these species. As we’re privileged to contribute to conservation strategies and the policies so urgently needed – one thing is clear: it’s going to take concerted actions at all levels – by people from all walks of life - to save rays at risk. Strategies to protect manta and devil rays globally will require action and collaboration at all levels of social organization - from engaged local communities, to caring and responsible tourists, effective protection measures and active management by national governments and international fishery management bodies.
As scuba divers, we’re uniquely positioned to influence meaningful change for conservation and management of those species. Your help is needed to implement the actions required to conserve these species worldwide. Don’t forget to be an eco-tourist and pledge to follow all of Project AWARE’s 10 Tips for Divers and check out Project AWARE’s Manta and Devil Rays at Risk Infographic to learn more. Thank you for your support!