The manta rays of Micronesia are now protected

KAILUA, Big Island (KHNL) -At the 10th meeting of the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force in Hawaii, the Governor of Yap in the Federated States of Micronesia, Sebastian Anefal announced that legislation has passed a law protecting manta rays and their habitat.

In an area compromising 16 main islands and atolls and 145 islets and spanning more than 8,243 square miles the new law will establish the first and largest marine area in the world to protect this animal.

"Man is not chief. The land and waters are chief," said Governor Anefal. "We need to protect our waters to protect our way of life and ensure that resources are plentiful for our next generations.Setting aside all the waters of Yap State to protect the manta ray and its habitat is the first step in this effort."

Yap has become know internationally as one of the best destinations to have a "manta ray" diving experience.

There is hope the sanctuary for manta rays will also provide an ecological approach to protecting the habitat for various other marine species as well.

"This is a bold move to conserve thousands of miles of ocean for an iconic species that is vital to the ocean ecosystem," said Tim Keeney, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Co-Chair to the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, "Micronesian nations are leading the way in ensuring the long-term survival of their marine resources."

The new law also calls for the development of a management plan to further define how the habitat for the Manta Ray will be protected. Fines of not less than $1,000 or six months in jail, or both, are imposed for anyone who harms, or kills Manta Rays or destroys their habitat.