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Coral Reefs

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

  • Alice S. CarpentierEmail author
  • Cécile Berthe
  • Isabel Ender
  • Fabrice R. A. Jaine
  • Johann Mourier
  • Guy Stevens
  • Moeava De Rosemont
  • Eric Clua
Report

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.

Keywords

Site fidelity Citizen science Sympatry Spatial connectivity Ecotourism management 

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was part of the French Polynesia Manta Ray Project, initiated in 2015 thanks to a collaboration between the Manta Trust and the ORP. We are very grateful to all the divers, snorkelers, and members of the ORP that contributed photographs, especially N. Buray, director of the ORP, Y. Verdez and N. Massoud (Maupiti Diving) for the photographs collected in Maupiti, R. Carter and G. Banton for those from Bora Bora collected in 2016 and their work in analysing some of the historical data presented in this study, and V. Truchet for the photographs collected in Tikehau, as well as: T. Athenol, M. Bègue, H. Blitz, B. Le Bouil, P. Carzon, B. Cauchard, F. Chasboeuf, M. Clavreul, Al. Dargie, A. Deliere, J. Dorio, O. Duguet, F. Farabaugh (Global footprint), P. Fey, S. Gadea, G. Lagarrigue, C. Hoogstoel, L. Lechat, T. Maire, D. Melzani, C. Mulard, H. Mura, M. Petit (Moorea Ocean Adventures), P. Schneider, C. Serin, M. Tavernier, E. Preyzner. We thank E. Germanov for her help in the LIR analysis. We also thank Topdive and Le Méridien, Bora Bora for their logistical and financial support in the Bora Bora data collection. We thank L. Hoarau (RRR) and T. Leclerc (Paradigme) for their help on the GIS, and P. Firouzian and CEDTM/Kelonia for their logistical support during the writing of this manuscript. Finally, we thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments on this manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.PSL Université Paris: EPHE-UPVD-CNRS, USR 3278 CRIOBEPapetoai, MooreaFrench Polynesia
  2. 2.Laboratoire d’Excellence “CORAIL”MooreaFrench Polynesia
  3. 3.Observatoire des Requins de Polynésie, TemaeMooreaFrench Polynesia
  4. 4.The Manta TrustDorsetUK
  5. 5.James Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia
  6. 6.Sydney Institute of Marine ScienceMosmanAustralia
  7. 7.Department of Biological SciencesMacquarie UniversityNorth RydeAustralia
  8. 8.UMR MARBEC (IRD, Ifremer, Univ. Montpellier, CNRS)SèteFrance
  9. 9.Association Manta PolynesiaBora BoraFrench Polynesia

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