RAREST MAMMAL in USA sighted at Manta Ray Night Dive in Kona Hawaii!
Waimanu - a Hawaiian Monk seal - was seen at “Manta Ray Heaven” a few times over the past few weeks, but always on the dark outskirts. Saturday and Sunday night, we captured NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN footage of Waimanu swimming through the dive site while the Manta Rays were feeding on plankton.
The Hawaiian Monk seal is considered a critically endangered animal with a population of approximately 1100. Most Hawaiian Monk Seals live around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; only a few populate the main Hawaiian Islands. Three monk seals inhabit the Big Island and Waimanu – the only female - is currently pregnant.
Ryan, our newest team member Adam and myself captured a truly breathtaking encounter.
Share it with the world and let us know what you think!
Learn more about protecting Hawaiian Monk Seals: www.NOAA.gov
Aloha and Happy New Year 2015!
Today is a special day: it is the 2-year anniversary of "Dolphin Rescue Hawaii", the rare video I shot of a wild Bottlenose Dolphin being rescued from fishing line entanglement (January 11, 2013). It happened during the Manta Ray Experience and it was an incredible moment: truly breath-taking, inspiring and providing the message the world needs!
The days and weeks after the video went viral were incredible. I got calls
from CNN, CBS, Good Morning America, FoxNews, ABC with Diane Sawyer, WDR, RTL,
Westdeutsche Zeitung, Tagesschau/Nachtmagazin etc and also interviewed with the
BBC Breakfast TV via skype. These were exciting times, which continued when the
BBC "Inside the animals mind", National Geographic "Animals gone wild", MINA TV
"Die tierischen Zehn" und Globo TV (Brazil) "Fantastico" integrated the film
into their productions. Two other you tube channels reloaded my original
dolphin rescue video, and together we have over 15 Million hits. We
received thousands of comments and emails. A true testament to the uniqueness of
the subject matter. It is also very unusual for a clip this long to accumulate
so many views.
The most common question we received was, “Is the dolphin okay?”
Amazingly, our very own E. Ryan Leinbach encountered the Bottlenose dolphin again and today on the two-year anniversary of the rescue, our team is very excited to present: Dolphin Rescue Hawaii – Update: A Chance Encounter. A MUST SEE!
It was on March 30, 2014 around 11AM, when Ryan encountered Notch about 2-3 miles of
shore in "blue water", meaning the ocean is just blue and several hundred meters
deep. She was scanning the surface for something exciting to see, and when she
discovered several dolphins, her group of snorkelers glided into the water to
check it out. Notch came over to the group and was making whistling and clicking
noises. After he checked everything, he went back to his original doings of
courtship behavior with a female. We can conclude that Notch is not just okay, he is actually thriving and
making more little dolphins. How cool is that?
From a humanized perspective, you might think that
Notch was happy to see humans, but from a natural stand-point (and I prefer
the down-to-earth approach) you can suggest that Notch was just verifying
that the creatures entering his neighborhood were not a threat or something to
be concerned with.
Although, both Ryan and myself have several thousands hours swimming and filming
dolphins on the Kona Coast, we both have never seen this
particular behaviour when Notch went spiraling into the deep blue, came
straight back to the surface and swam around the humans. It is very rare footage and supports the theory that he was a "happy camper".
Well, who really knows , but we make people think, right?
At the beginning of this year (Jan 1 until 9) we joined the local "Waimea
Ocean Film Festival" on the Big Island. We submitted the full story of Notch:
before the rescue; the actual rescue and the re-union. The screenings with live
Q&A were a big success.
Here is a beautiful story from one
event: A gentleman walked up to me and told me that he
was with me on the boat when the Dolphin Rescue took place. We traveled back
together to the harbor. I was on such an adrenaline high, saying things like "this video will go
viral" or "millions of people will see this".
The guy, Dave,
thought I was a total nutcase for saying that stuff. He thought I was some crazy
lady LOL...but here we go...15 Mil hits on YouTube and counting.
The Waimea Ocean Festival edit/story is available to everyone, as we offer
the HD download for ONLY $5. YES, no kidding ONLY $5. The contributions will help us to continue our Manta Ray advocacy and ocean education.
On a personal note: The last two years were a whirlwind for many other reasons. In the summer of 2013, I unfortunately (or fortunately) was diagnosed with breast canser, so for a while my work had to be 2nd priority. The final steps to recovery were taken a few months ago (September 2014), and I can only say, everything is fine! I am not only a cancer survivor, I am a cancer
The BC diagnosis actually fueled me even more to continue my ocean advocacy and education for Manta Rays and marine life, as it is my true love and passion. I am in the right place and can apply all my skills: from engineering to web-design to video production. My group recently started the Manta Ray Advocacy movement. The Manta Ray activity is over-capacity and and
as a result the mantas are getting hurt. My small team has the means, knowledge and imagery to make a difference. Learn more here!
Our intention for sharing this footage:
1. You can make a difference every day, even if you don't see the result
Who would have thought that Notch from being in trouble with the
(man-made) fishing line entanglement would end up thriving and procreate?
2 We can co-exist with other creatures. Although humans know so much, they
only know so little.
3. The footage is very beautiful and enjoyable to watch.
4. Our company's mission statement is:
"Inspiring, educating and transforming public consciousness with
stunning imagery". We feel we are delivering and are planning to
continue on this path.
Merry Christmas to all crew members, boat captains and activity providers that we work with on a nightly basis. You help us keep the Advocacy movement going. This is our tribute to your hard work and dedication and we wish you all the best for the New Year 2015!
Aloha, we have completed our statistical assessment of the Manta (alfredi) population on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii. These statistics cover both venues where we regularly encounter the Manta Rays.
Click here to open/download the accompanying 8-page pdf-file.
These statistics are based on field observations and review of video footage from each location on a given date. We would like to thank all contributors who made these statistics as complete and accurate as possible.
A Special Mahalo to Luke, David, Jordan and Katie from Kona Diving Company, Jonathan from Big Island Divers as well as others who were kind enough to provide us with information.
The Top 3 Manta Rays in 2013
The Top 20 in 2013
The largest "Cast on Set"
• On October 25, 2013 we saw the highest number of 43 individual Manta Rays.
39 Mantas at Manta Heaven (airport location) and 4 Mantas at Manta Village (Sheraton Keauhou location) (see page 5).
• That same night was also the highest number of 39Mantas in 2013 for individual sightings for Manta Heaven.
• The highest number at Manta Village was 13 Mantas on September 27, 2013.
• In 2013 we saw 82 individual Manta Rays (the same number of Rays we saw in 2012) during the snorkel/dive activity at “Manta Heaven” and “Manta Village” (see Page 3).
• Over the entire month of November 2013 we saw the highest number of different individuals at 62 (see Page 8).
New Arrivals – Rookies of the year
5 new Manta Rays were identified during the night activity in 2013:
• Peg, Lee Ray, Csilla, Lobes “El Diablo” and HipHip Hooray (see Page 3 and 4).
• Three Manta Rays found their way to Manta Heaven after being identified years ago:
--- Independence Ray was identified a few days before July 2011 (hence the name) and was
not seen again until July of 2013. In 2013 we saw him 26 times.
--- Tanqueray was identified at Sand Chute (a dive site very close to Manta Heaven) in 2008 and then seen again in 2010 at Kiholo Bay (distance of 15 Miles North). He finally made it to Manta Heaven in August 2013! He then visited 15x.
--- Ryan Ray ID’d in 2006 during the night dive at Manta Heaven showed up 7.5 years later 1x in November 2013. She had been seen a few times during those years at a cleaning station north of Manta Heaven during daytime encounters.
• We had seen Spatter Ray in 2012 after a 7 year absence, but she did not stop by in 2013. We have reason to believe she is alive, well, and enjoying herself somewhere else like we hope for other former regulars that are MIA today (Wing Ray, Angelika Ray, Capt. Kirk).
• "Youngster” Kai-Zed Ray came by only 1x in 2012, but made Manta Heaven a regular spot to feed in 2013. He enjoyed himself 60x.
• Rusty Ray did the same 1x show in 2012, but was then seen 43x in 2013.
• Amanda Ray, a newly identified pup in 2012 really liked to come to Manta Village. In the first 6 months of 2013 she only came 9x, but starting in July 2013 she was feeding 130x, which made her jump into the TOP 20 to Place 12. WOW!!.
• Newly ID in 2013 Peg Ray appeared 75x in 2013, she was also the 2nd most seen Manta in November 2013. She is a fast learner!
• Lee Ray followed Peg’s example of being a “newby” and making 2nd most seen Manta in December 2013. She came a total of 42x in 2013.
MIA's & Cameos
• All regularly seen Manta Rays in 2012 continued to thrill us in 2013. This “core group” is consistent at both locations with none of the Manta Rays going "missing in action"
• Coral Ray, Dionne, Shelly, Mac Ray, X-Ray, Ola’i, Isabel, Sparrow and Winona made one or two time appearances at Manta Heaven in 2013. It is nice to know that they are still around.
• Jeffrey Ray (ID in 1999) had not been sighted since October 2010, but he came 6x in August, September and October of 2013 and appeared healthy.
Lunar Phase: Fact or Fiction?
Like the 2011 and 2012 statistics, the 2013 numbers indicate that there is no correlation between moon phase and manta sightings (see Page 5).
What are the odds?
Page 6 of our pdf file will show the overview of the ratio of possible charters and successful Manta Ray Sightings for each month as well as the average number of individual Manta Rays.
• “Skunked” – going out and see no Manta Rays in 2013: _____Manta Heaven = 32 times _____Manta Village = 11 times
• The probability of seeing at least one Manta Ray in 2013 was: _____Manta Heaven = 90 % (down from 95% in 2012) _____Manta Village = 96 % (up from 93% in 2012)
• The average number of individuals Manta Rays for 2013: _____Manta Heaven = 11 (a decrease from 14 in 2012) _____Manta Village = 4 (up from 3 in 2012).
Wow, the possibility to see a Manta Ray on the Kona Coast during a night time adventure remains to be over 90%. We continue to be amazed by the consistency of their appearances.
"High mileage" mantas
Manta Rays sometimes travel the distance of approx. 14 miles between the dive sites within a time frame of 24 – 96 hours (see Page 7).
We monitor the movement of these “Travelers” and observed that 30 Manta Rays (up 2 mantas from 2012) swam between Manta Village and Manta Heaven or vice versa. Vallaray is the “Traveler of the year 2013”. She moved up and down the coast 31 times, 10 months of the year. In May and June, 6 times.
Melainah Ray (Traveler of the Year 2012) and Linda Ray also did their share of traveling within their home range and using the night feeding areas to their advantage.
Pregnant Manta Rays
By the end of 2013, we observed that 5 female Mantas were pregnant.
• Big Bertha: another one after her pregnancy 2010/2011
• Vicky Ray: first pregnancy! Congratulations! Identified in 2002 as a pup, she has been a regular since then. Perhaps it takes 11 years for females to be sexually mature.
• Koie Ray: first time ever becoming pregnant since we first saw her (ID in 2001)
• Who Ray
• Andrea Ray
We were pleased to see that all 5 females came to term successfully in the spring of 2014!!
Over the last two years, we have observed an increasing number of injuries to the manta rays. Whereas before, most of the injuries we saw were fishing hook and fishing line related. We are now seeing what looks like impact and entanglement injuries. We believe the dramatic increase of tour operators and the different methods of attraction used by some operators contribute heavily to this disturbing trend.
Resolution HCR 170 (Originally Bill HB 1684) was introduced by State Representative Nicole Lowen which urges the DLNR to manage the manta sites in Keauhou and Makako Bay (airport location), in particular the over-saturation problems we encounter 90% of the time. There are no "slow times" anymore. The resolution was adopted on April 21, 2014.
For now, a working group has been formed to find solutions. With the State’s involvement, positive change will get done eventually, but unfortunately the mantas have to endure the current climate, which is harmful to them on a nightly basis. They are now exposed to propeller strikes from live-boating, impact injuries due to hull-lighting, entanglements, and fishing gear injuries. At “Manta Village” we have observed people entering from shore that regularly dive down on, touch, and try to ride the manta rays. Unfortunately it has become a “free for all”.
The Manta “Gold Rush” has produced a new group of people who don’t seem concerned about manta injuries and the importance of passive interaction. The human over-saturation of the Manta Ray's feeding areas is clearly harming them. It is our hope that the process for their protection will be abbreviated so that the threats that they face can be eliminated as quickly as possible.
Most of the operators work within the guidelines that the Operator Standards address, but others have clearly shown they cannot or will not manage themselves, so it appears the State will have to step in and regulate them. We will keep you posted.
What can I do as a participant?
If you choose to participate in one of the excursions, we encourage you to go with a company that keeps the Manta Rays safety (and of course your’s) their highest priority!
Aloha and best wishes to all Manta Lovers and Ocean Enthusiasts for 2014.
It has been sometime since my last blog entry. 2013 was pretty crazy as it started out with my dolphin rescue video going "viral". As of today, with reloads, it has more than 6 million hits on YouTube. The BBC and National Geographic will feature the story sometime in 2014. We are so grateful and pleased that this beautiful message is continuing to spread worldwide. :)
Medical issues have held me back (a little) in 2013, so I anticipate more energy as we move into 2014.
2013 further clarified that the Manta Rays are my true love and passion, and our team is highly motivated to keep you informed about our Gentle Giants in 2014 and beyond.
The Manta Rays have certainly done their part! Numbers and sightings for 2013 were stellar and I will be reporting in much more detail (sometime later this year) by posting our Annual Statistics Report. Please keep checking back for it.
Today’s blog is mainly about the future of the Manta Ray Experience and our concerns that the two sites are over-saturated with people.
State representatives Cindy Evans and Nicole Lowen (Committee for Ocean, Marine Resources, & Hawaiian Affairs) introduced Bill 1684: (f) The department of land and natural resources shall adopt rules, pursuant to chapter 91, that establish a permit system limiting the number and capacity of boats and people present at manta ray aggregation sites."
As pioneers of this incredible ocean encounter we have seen the industry grow and grow and grow. The number of boats at the two sites and people in the water has greatly increased over the last few years. In our opinion, the sites are over-capacity almost every night and the safety of animals, environment/coral reef and humans is being adversely impacted. If the growth goes unchecked, we don't see a bright future for the activity. Thus, we support Bill 1684!!
A little more history: The Manta Ray Experience started commercially in 1991 with one boat once per week! Over the years, more and more boat operators started to “join” the Experience. About 2-3 years ago, we started to feel increasingly uneasy as to the number of people in the water. We have always marveled at the cooperation and teamwork at the dive sites, as well as how many people are guided during the activity. Every activity has a maximum capacity and only so many people can fit into a limited space. We believe that 200 people is the maximum capacity this activity (per location) can tolerate without adverse effects on the Manta Rays and the eco-system in general.
The Coast Guard and the State’s DLNR took note of the rapid growth and questionable conduct within the industry in November 2012. All boat operators were “called” to a meeting to address these issues. At their behest, operator standards were created and have been in place since April 2013. Since this is only a “gentlemen’s agreement”, without enforcement, quite a few boat owners have simply ignored these standards.
As a result, the Mantas have been injured and the activity has fragmented with some people seeing the Mantas, and some not, at the same location.
Everyone used to gather at the main viewing area we call “the campfire”, but certain operators decided to attract the Mantas to their specific boat instead, for their own reasons, and disorganization now reigns supreme.
We were involved in the creation of these standards, and during all of the meetings it was apparent that the group of boat owners could not agree on the number of participants. It was difficult enough to agree on the standards. To us, the meetings seemed to be more about personal grievances than about the safety of the activity or the well-being of the Manta Rays. So, as stated above, the standards were drafted, but the people that seemed to be causing all the problems, just ignored them. Essentially nothing changed. In fact, it is worse now.
As a result, lawmakers picked up on the turmoil within the industry. They must have also realized that the future of this Experience is at stake. So far, the proposed bill seems to have received a favorable reception. If it does pass, then the issue becomes enforcement. It remains to be seen if this will solve this disturbing, on-going, increasingly complex problem.
Today’s Manta Experience is not responsible eco-tourism, and in our opinion, NOT SAFE AND NOT SUSTAINABLE.
Without regulations, we see no future for the Manta Ray Experience. There are those that advocate self-regulation, but history has shown us this is not possible.
Do we have some ideas of how to solve this? Yes, the first step is to support Bill 1684!!
This will be a WIN for the Mantas, a WIN for the humans, a WIN for the State and a WIN for the Environment.
We will keep you updated…
We wish everyone the best for 2014, especially for the Manta Rays and all Ocean creatures.
Aloha, we have completed the Manta Ray Statistics for 2012.
Click here to open/download the accompanying 7-page pdf-file.
All statistics are based on personal observations and review of video footage of each specific night dive on a given date. We would like to thank all contributors who make these statistics as complete and accurate as possible.
A Special Mahalo to Luke, David and Katie from Kona Diving Company as well as Jonathan from Big Island Divers.
The Top 3 Manta Rays in 2012
We had two No.1 Manta Rays in 2012!
1. Place: Koie Ray and Blain Ray, came to feed245times
3. Place: Vicky Ray, she was seen 232 times
The Top 20 in 2012
The largest "Cast on Set"
• On July 4th, 2012 we saw the highest number of 42 individuals in one night, which sets a NEW record number of Rays at “Manta Heaven” (Airport location) (see page 5).
• During the month of April 2012 we saw the highest number of different individuals at 62 (see Page 7).
• In 2012 we saw 82 individual Manta Rays (an increase of 10 from 2011) during the snorkel/dive activity at “Manta Heaven” (Airport location) and “Manta Village” (Sheraton/Keauhou location) (see Page 3).
New Arrivals – Rookies of the year
3 new Manta Rays were identified during the night activity in 2012 (see Page 3 and 4):
• Amanda Ray - She was identified October 22, 2012 at Manta Village. From her identification to the end of 2012 she was seen 5 times. She was very shy and stayed close to the bottom to feed on the plankton.
• Orion Ray - Orion was first seen on September 21, 2012 at Manta Village. He was seen one more time after his identification. Both times he came to the lights, but was very shy.
• Daniel Ray - Daniel was identified April 8, 2012 at Manta Heaven. He was seen 7 times in 2012.
All 3 pups had a wingspan of 3-5 feet.
• Delaney Ray was identified in August of 2008 and was not seen again until May of 2011. In 2011 we saw her 43 times, and in 2012 she made it into the TOP 20 with 139 sightings.
• Mango jumped from No. 37 with 18 sightings in 2011 into the TOP 20 to Place No. 16 with 147 sightings.
• "Youngster” Tim Ray made it into the TOP 20, although he only started appearing in March 2012.
• “W” Ray has been known as long as “Lefty” (since 1979 – over 34 years ago!).
We saw “W” only 3 times in 2012 (04/26, 04/30 and 05/01/12), but the really exciting news is that she was pregnant at that time. Her belly was huge and males followed her very closely (check out this short video).
It is still a mystery how long Manta Rays live, but we can speculate from “Lefty” and “W”. It is even more incredible news to understand that a female can reproduce at this age!!
MIA's & Cameos
• We are sad to say that we have not seen Capt. Kirk since June 14, 2012. He had made regular appearances (73 times) at Manta Heaven until then. He is a Manta Ray without a tail and very easy to spot. We hope he is just on an “extended vacation”.
• Guillermo, Coral and Kai-Zed made one-time appearances at Manta Heaven in 2012. It is nice to know that they are still around as they have not been seen since they were identified in 2007 (Guillermo) and 2009 (Coral). It was also good to see that Kai-Zed (ID’d in 2011) “checked in” at Manta Heaven last year.
Lunar Phase: Fact or Fiction?
As in the 2011 statistics, the 2012 numbers suggest that there is no direct correlation between moon phase and manta sightings (see Page 5).
What are the odds?
• Page 6 of our pdf file will show the overview of the ratio of possible charters and successful Manta Ray Sightings for each month as well as the average number of individual Manta Rays.
"Manta Heaven” participants got skunked 15 times, “Manta Village” participants 21 times in 2012.
The probability of seeing at least one Manta Ray in 2012 was:
Manta Heaven: 95 % Manta Village: 93%
Wow, the possibility to see a Manta Ray on the Kona Coast during a night time adventure is over 90% now (up from 88% in 2011).
These are incredible numbers for creatures “in the wild”.
• The average number of individuals at “Manta Heaven” was 14 (an increase from 7 in 2011) and at “Manta Village” was 3 Manta Rays for 2012 (up from 2 in 2011).
“High mileage” mantas
Manta Rays sometimes travel the distance of approx. 14 miles between the dive sites within a time frame of 24 – 96 hours (see Page 7). We kept track of those “Travelers” and observed that 28 Manta Rays swam between Manta Village and Manta Heaven or vice versa.
Like in 2011, Melainah Ray is the “Traveler of the year 2012”. She moved up and down the coast 26 times, 10 months of the year and in July and December, 5 times.
Big Bertha, Lefty and Vallaray also did their share of traversing their home range and using the night feeding areas to their advantage.
Disturbing Trends & Injuries
We have seen an increase in the number of swimmers and kayakers coming from shore at the Sheraton Keauhou location (Manta Village). While guests of the boat operators are briefed to the existing guidelines so as to safely and responsibly interact with the wild life, this (regrettably) is not the case with participants from shore. We have witnessed them diving down and touching the mantas on a number of occasions. We are concerned that the manta rays may "learn" that the lighted, feeding areas should be avoided during certain time periods, possibly causing them to alter there "schedule" to avoid humans.
2012 also brought an increase of tour operators who began using “hull lighting” to attract the Manta Rays close to their specific boats and away from the long-established, centrally located viewing area thereby "fragmenting" the attending manta rays.
This practice has also caused the manta rays to sustain impact injuries due to the close proximity of those lights to boat hulls, propellers, rudders and ladders.
Underwater hull lighting creates an unsafe feeding environment for the mantas and has resulted in injuries to the mantas that have been witnessed and well-documented.
So, while there is statutory language in place that protects the manta rays from being captured or killed, no such language exists that offers protection from injury.
In an attempt to address this and other problems, the local manta industry (at the strong suggestion of State and Federal authorities), united to create “Tour Operator Standards” for the Manta Activity.
A "Manta Committee" was formed in late 2012, with approx. 80% representation, to establish and implement Operator Standards for ALL the commercial operators to follow for the Greater Good:
1. Increase the safety of the Manta Rays and their habitat.
2. Increase the safety of the users and participants of the manta tour experience.
3. Establish community practices and to educate those people involved.
We are working within the Manta Operator community towards complete compliance as there is a fair amount of resistance to implementation.
As stated above, our resident population of Manta Rays has had to sustain injuries due to engagement with boats. Jana Ray, in particular, has had a rough year sustaining serious injury to her right cephalic fin as well as showing evidence of various other injuries (visualized in this video).
Due to the sheer number of Manta Rays observed, especially at “Manta Heaven”, and the numbers of pups produced, we believe that, overall, the resident population is healthy and thriving.
On July 4th, 2012 we saw the highest number of individuals (42), which sets a NEW record number of Rays at “Manta Heaven".
We saw Teresa Ray bring her pregnancy to term in February/March 2012 and observed a pregnant "W" in May 2012.
With an over a 90% probability of seeing a Manta Ray in 2012, Kona, Hawaii continues to be THE destination to see these Gentle Giants in their natural habitat!
If you choose to participate in one of the excursions, we encourage you to go with a company that is mindful of and complies with Tour Operator Guidelines.
We hope you have enjoyed the presentation of this information. Once again, Mahalo to those that helped us compile this data. We are looking forward to doing this again for 2013.
Martina, Jim and Ryan
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