The Manta Network (TMN) conducts research in many locations frequented by manta and mobula rays. Our fieldwork is focused not only in areas where they are endangered but also where there are important populations from the aspect of both conservation and public education involving eco-tourism and the training of local affiliates.
Our primary goal is to allow the scientists the opportunity to work in these important locations. Having the scientists work with local affiliates prepares our associates to carry on the important fieldwork.
We also give sport divers, photographers and volunteer members of TMN an opportunity to participate and assist our scientists in the fieldwork. This not only helps to fund the important work but also creates more active supporters eager to help spread the word about the need for protection and personal involvement.
Dive operators who sponsor manta expeditions benefit in several ways:
1. Working as a sales partner with TMN, expeditions can be an effective means to fill dive trips. The dive operator is seen as extremely eco-friendly through their support of manta conservation. There is a brand new market segment within the dive industry that wants to participate in eco-tourism activities while on vacation. This specialized dive tour can be promoted as a new type of scuba adventure.
2. Dive operators will be trained in the manta field methods so that they can make a continuing contribution. This work can also be promoted to enhance the onboard experience of all their guests after the scientists leave.
Volunteers are part of the research effort with “hands-on” activities that assist the scientists in the water and in analyzing the data. We will collect data necessary to protect manta rays from over-exploitation. Research may include:
a. Identify the make-up of the local population by photo/video documentation of mantas and their habitat behavior (i.e. cleaning stations, feeding, social interaction)
b. With our unique underwater video monitoring system, we will monitor behavior (even at night) without the presence of divers.
c. Acoustic tags may be applied during each trip to track the manta rays’ local movements.
d. DNA tissue samples may be taken where possible to add to our global understanding of population diversity.
e. Research, photographs and video taken during the tour may to be used in the creation of a documentary and for manta identification analysis.
f. Satellite tags may also be applied for long-term and long-range studies to understand migration behavior.
g. During the trip, we hold seminars and classroom discussions on manta biology, ecology and field methods. Manta research assistant certificates are also awarded.
We plan to bring specialized equipment for research including underwater photo/video cameras, manta acoustic tags/tracking receiver and MantaCam, our specially designed, remotely operated underwater camera system. Only a limited number of research assistant spaces will be available.
TMN is a research and educational organization but not a tour operator. We partner with dive and scuba tour operators to conduct trips where volunteer field assistants pay for the opportunity to participate and learn about this important species.
To support and promote Manta Expeditions, the dive and/or tour operators will provide a free space for the scientist and additional support as required including assisting in obtaining government permits, if required. However, TMN is not responsible for selling space for either research assistants or general divers. TMN will partner with dive/tour operators to promote the expedition to its members, media and other interested parties.
Each participating field assistant will contribute an additional $375 towards the cost of the expedition. This will entitle them to participate in all field activities, nightly seminars and to receive an official certification of accomplishment.
Additional funds for the expedition can be raised through the sale of spaces by TMN. In addition to the scientist space, TMN will receive a commission of 10-20% depending on whether additional free staff spaces are provided. Generally, each five spaces sold by TMN and its agents will be compensated with commissions and an additional free staff space.