A new scientific study by the Marine Megafauna Foundation, a global non-profit marine research and conservation organization, on the economic benefits of manta ray tourism in Mozambique has been published in Tourism in Marine Environments. This represents the first detailed study of its kind in Mozambique.
Manta rays are internationally threatened species and population declines have been reported in various locations worldwide. Aside from fishing pressure, manta rays face other anthropogenic threats including injuries or entanglement in discarded nets and lines, pollution and habitat destruction. However, these iconic megafauna species are also major drawcards for wildlife tourism industries, providing an incentive for the protection of the animals and their natural habitats through the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and the restriction of harvesting or trade.
In this first study, the Marine Megafauna Foundation used data from 478 tourist expenditure surveys, 15 stakeholder surveys and yearly diver statistics provided by coastal tour operators to estimate the economic impact of manta ray tourism in Mozambique’s Inhambane Province. Manta ray tours are estimated to be worth US$10.9 million per year in direct revenue to dive operators in the Inhambane Province, with an estimated direct economic impact (including associated tourism expenditures) of US$34 million annually. In the absence of manta ray tourism, between US$16.1 and 25.7 million would be lost to the region each year.
“The opportunity to interact with manta rays in their natural environment attracts tourists from all over the world to Mozambique, directly benefiting the local economy. This study demonstrates that in the long term conserving these gentle giants outweighs the one-time economic benefits of fishing them,” commented Stephanie Venables, manta ray scientist at the Marine Megafauna Foundation. “Our ongoing research in the region has shown that manta ray populations are in considerable decline, however, through the implementation of well-designed and effectively managed Marine Protected Areas coupled with legislative protection, it is still possible to make a difference and save these iconic animals before it is too late.”
Mozambique’s coastline stretches for 2,470km and has six designated Marine Protected Areas to date. The Marine Megafauna Foundation is providing conservation strategies to local governments and community leaders to protect threatened marine megafauna species and the economic value of marine tourism. Since 2016, the organization has also been working with communities around Tofo Beach, a major tourist destination in the Inhambane Province, towards implementing a Locally Managed Marine Area.
The Marine Megafauna Foundation was created in 2009 to research, protect and conserve the populations of threatened marine megafauna around the world. ‘Megafauna’ are large marine species such as sharks, rays, marine mammals and sea turtles. For more information visit marinemegafauna.org.