1000th Oceanic Manta Spotted in Maldives Waters

MV+ News Desk | April 22, 2024
Photo: Simon Hilbourne

The Maldives Manta Conservation Programme (MMCP) have identified the 1000th oceanic mantas (Mobula birostris) from the Maldives waters.

This discovery solidifies the Maldives’ position as home to the third-highest population of these majestic creatures globally.


Celebrating this landmark occasion, the RahVeshi Programme, led by Manta Trust, organised a special event in Fuvahmulah, in collaboration with the Fuvahmulah City Council.

The event featured educational stalls, manta-themed games, and live music by local artist Shiuz. The highlight was the naming of the 1000th manta, affectionately named “Anbu,” which translates to mango in the Maldivian language Dhivehi, through a lucky draw.

According to Fauz Fath-hee from MMCP, over 85 percent of manta sightings in the Maldives originate from Fuvahmulah Atoll in the southern region of the archipelago.

MMCP said that this remarkable achievement underscores the collaborative efforts and unwavering dedication of the conservation community in comprehensively understanding and protecting these remarkable creatures. With the largest recorded population of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) and the third largest population of oceanic manta rays worldwide, the Maldives has emerged as a crucial stronghold for manta ray conservation.

Fauz highlighted that MMCP, the flagship project of Manta Trust, has been actively studying manta rays since 2005, with the first identification of an oceanic manta ray in Maldivian waters dating back to 1996.

Identifiable by the unique spot patterns on their bellies, akin to human fingerprints, manta rays are catalogued through photo identification methods. Researchers dive beneath these majestic creatures to capture images of their belly spots, which are then catalogued in a database.

MMCP gathers photo IDs through direct research fieldwork, citizen science submissions, and the invaluable support of local dive centres.

The sighting of the 1000th individual is not only a cause for celebration but also a beacon of hope for the species. Classified as endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, oceanic manta rays face substantial threats from targeted and bycatch fisheries.

In neighbouring Sri Lanka, which hosts the world’s largest mobula fisheries, the Blue Resources Trust, a local project and Manta Trust affiliate, estimates that up to 1,000 manta rays are landed annually. This alarming figure underscores the critical need for regional cooperation in addressing the conservation challenges facing manta ray populations.