Popular manta ray viewing tours prompt safety concerns - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Popular manta ray viewing tours prompt safety concerns

Manta ray viewing tours off the Kona coast are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR Manta ray viewing tours off the Kona coast are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR
The state says popular manta ray tours are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR The state says popular manta ray tours are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR
Manta ray viewing tours off the Kona coast are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR Manta ray viewing tours off the Kona coast are raising safety concerns. Image source: DLNR
KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Two manta ray viewing sites off the Kona coast of the Big Island have become too popular for their own good. 

"At this stage it's gotten to be so congested, we're looking at ways to ensure safety," said Ed Underwood, of the Department of Land and Natural Resource’s Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation.

The sites -- off Keauhou Bay by the Sheraton and Makako Bay by the old airport -- are attracting tourists and tour operators who come to see the giant creatures feed at dusk and into the night.

However, with popularity comes problems.

"The areas are only so big and can only handle so many people," Underwood said.

A recently-committed safety assessment of the sites highlights a number of safety and other concerns, including multiple boats docked to the same mooring, anchor damage to the ocean floor, and the sheer volume of people in the water.

Additionally, there are boats navigating through areas where people are in the water.

The DLNR is working to create a draft rule by early 2016 to present to local tour operators.

The state will then solicit community input and feedback before coming up with final regulations for the tours.

Underwood stressed this is a collaborative and cooperative effort with the tour operators.

Copyright 2015 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.

Powered by Frankly