The Etpison Museum with assistance from Master Electronics has launched a new web site called www.mantaIDpalau.org to showcase and share information and photos of manta rays found in Palau. The website was designed locally by Michael and Denise from MDwebcreations.com
Museum Director and photographer Mandy Etpison has been diving and snorkeling with mantas in Palau for 25 years, and says she wants to build a database and gather information from different dive guides and photographers on sightings and behavior of Palau’s mantas.
Manta rays have black markings on their bellies that are like fingerprints, and make each individual easy to identify. Yap is known for its mantas, but Palau has these amazing creatures too. Right now we have 103 individual mantas clearly identified, she says, 45 males and 58 females, which are all shown on the new website. Nine of these are the unusual black mantas. The new website will be exchanging information and photographs with photographers and other websites, like palaumantarays.com, another new manta website launched by Jeanette Denby.
Neco Marine dive shop has also started a new PADI dive specialty course this month called “Manta Identification Diver Palau”, a two day course where tourists and locals can learn about Palau’s manta rays and how to behave around them. Specialty Instructor Fabio Esposito will be teaching the course, and says he would like to see all the dive guides in Palau give better briefings to their guests about the mantas, and especially how to behave around them.
In recent years German Channel, where mantas come to get cleaned and to feed, has become one of Palau’s top sites for tourists. The increased boat, dive and snorkel traffic however could cause the mantas to move away from the area if not managed properly. Several mantas now show scars from boat and propeller strikes, and were injured by fishing hooks and lines they accidentally swim into when feeding on plankton near the surface. Local tour operators have suggested to Koror and Peleliu State to ensure the safety of both tourists and mantas by making a no-boat and no-fishing zone around the channel mouth where mantas feed.