Protecting the million-dollar mantas; creating an evidence-based code of conduct for manta ray tourism interactions

Annie Murray*, Eleanor Garrud, Isabel Ender, Katie Lee-Brooks, Rebecca Atkins, Rebecca Lynam, Kathryn Arnold, Callum Roberts, Julie Hawkins, Guy Stevens

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Manta ray tourism is estimated to contribute US$ 140 million annually to the global economy. The multitudes of tourists potentially disturb the animals, yet the effect of human behaviour on feeding manta rays has not been quantified. Using videos collected at feeding sites in the Maldives, we found that only 44% of observed human-manta interactions complied with existing guidelines. Human behaviours; accidental obstruction, diving too near/in front, chasing, and approaching from the front, all had a statistically significant negative effect on behaviour, resulting in feeding cessation, while passive interactions resulted in significantly less disturbance and cessation reactions. Interactions within three metres caused significantly increased avoidance behaviours. These findings support the guidelines provided by the Manta Trusts’ code of conduct, which aims to develop legislation to minimise disturbance by tourism. Our key recommendations aim to ensure that the manta ray tourism industry remains sustainable and non-detrimental to the animals’ natural behaviour. Visit for video abstract.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Ecotourism
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 5 Sept 2019

Bibliographical note

© 2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • Conservation
  • Maldives
  • Mobula alfredi
  • sustainable tourism
  • wildlife tourism

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