Preliminary insights into the population characteristics and distribution of reef (Mobula alfredi) and oceanic (M. birostris) manta rays in French Polynesia

Type Article
Date 2019-12
Language English
Author(s) Carpentier Alice S.1, Berthe Cécile1, 2, Ender Isabel3, 4, Jaine Fabrice R. A.5, 6, Mourier Johann1, 2, 7, Stevens Guy3, de Rosemont Moeava8, Clua Eric1, 2
Affiliation(s) 1 : PSL Universite´ Paris: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBE, BP 1013, 98729 Papetoai, Moorea, French Polynesia
2 : Observatoire des Requins de Polyne´sie, Temae, 98728 Moorea, French Polynesia
3 : The Manta Trust, Catemwood House, Norwood Lane, Corscombe, Dorset DT2 0NT, UK
4 : James Cook University, 1 James Cook Drive, Townsville, QLD 4811, Australia
5 : Sydney Institute of Marine Science, Mosman, NSW 2088, Australia
6 : Department of Biological Sciences, Macquarie University, North Ryde, NSW 2113, Australia
7 : UMR MARBEC (IRD, Ifremer, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS), Se`te, France
8 : Association Manta Polynesia, Bora Bora, French Polynesia
Source Coral Reefs (0722-4028) (Springer Science and Business Media LLC), 2019-12 , Vol. 38 , N. 6 , P. 1197-1210
DOI 10.1007/s00338-019-01854-0
WOS© Times Cited 2
Keyword(s) Site fidelity, Citizen science, Sympatry, Spatial connectivity, Ecotourism management
Abstract

In French Polynesia, both currently recognized manta ray species, Mobula alfredi and M. birostris, are observed. Despite being an important cultural asset and generating significant economic benefits through manta ray watching tourism, published data on the ecology and threats to these species in the region are scarce. Based on an 18-year dataset of sighting records collected by citizen scientists and during two scientific expeditions, this study provides the first insights into the population characteristics and regional distribution of the two manta ray species in French Polynesia. A total of 1347 manta ray photographs (1337 for M. alfredi and 10 for M. birostris) were examined for the period January 2001–December 2017, with photo-identification techniques leading to the successful identification of 317 individual M. alfredi and 10 individual M. birostris throughout the Society, Tuamotu and Marquesas Islands. We provide the first confirmation of sympatric distribution of both species in the Society Islands. Our results highlight strong and long-term site fidelity of M. alfredi individuals to certain aggregation sites (> 9 years for 16 individuals) and reveal some degree of connectivity between populations, with 10 individuals recorded moving between islands located up to 50 km apart. Analysis of photographs of individuals bearing sub-lethal injuries (n = 68) suggests that M. alfredi are more likely to be injured at inhabited islands (Maupiti or Bora Bora; 75% of all injured individuals) than at uninhabited islands, with 75% of injuries related to boat propeller strikes and fishing gear entanglements. Our findings emphasize the need for further research to allow for a comprehensive evaluation of population structure, size and threats to manta rays in this region.

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Carpentier Alice S., Berthe Cécile, Ender Isabel, Jaine Fabrice R. A., Mourier Johann, Stevens Guy, de Rosemont Moeava, Clua Eric (2019). Preliminary insights into the population characteristics and distribution of reef (Mobula alfredi) and oceanic (M. birostris) manta rays in French Polynesia. Coral Reefs, 38(6), 1197-1210. Publisher's official version : https://doi.org/10.1007/s00338-019-01854-0 , Open Access version : https://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00515/62642/