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In pictures: The gentle giants of Indonesia’s waters

February 21, 2014

A manta ray in the waters of Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia’s Papua province. Indonesia on Friday, February 21, 2014 became home to the world’s biggest manta ray sanctuary covering millions of square kilometres, as it seeks to protect the huge winged fish and draw more tourists to the sprawling archipelago. AFP / Conservation International
A manta ray in the waters of Raja Ampat in eastern Indonesia’s Papua province. Indonesia on Friday, February 21, 2014 became home to the world’s biggest manta ray sanctuary covering millions of square kilometres, as it seeks to protect the huge winged fish and draw more tourists to the sprawling archipelago. AFP / Conservation International
Manta rays within the archipelago’s 5.8 million square kilometres of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. AFP / Conservation International
Manta rays within the archipelago’s 5.8 million square kilometres of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. AFP / Conservation International
Conservationists point to simple economics as an incentive to create the sanctuary. A manta ray is worth up to US$1 million (Dh3.67m) over the course of its long lifetime thanks to tourists who are willing to pay top dollar to swim with the creatures. AFP / Conservation International
Conservationists point to simple economics as an incentive to create the sanctuary. A manta ray is worth up to US$1 million (Dh3.67m) over the course of its long lifetime thanks to tourists who are willing to pay top dollar to swim with the creatures. AFP / Conservation International
In some areas, including a well-known spot near Bali, residents are already seeing profits from taking snorkelers out on their fishing boats, or working at larger dive resorts where mantas are a top attraction. AFP / Conservation International
In some areas, including a well-known spot near Bali, residents are already seeing profits from taking snorkelers out on their fishing boats, or working at larger dive resorts where mantas are a top attraction. AFP / Conservation International
In Indonesia alone, manta tourism brings in an estimated $15m each year. AFP / Conservation International
In Indonesia alone, manta tourism brings in an estimated $15m each year. AFP / Conservation International
Two types of rays exist in Indonesia, the manta and the mobula. Both are killed for their plankton-filtering gills, which are used for medicinal concoctions, mainly in China. AFP / Conservation International
Two types of rays exist in Indonesia, the manta and the mobula. Both are killed for their plankton-filtering gills, which are used for medicinal concoctions, mainly in China. AFP / Conservation International
In this Oct. 18, 2011 photo, manta ray swims in the water, off Raja Ampat islands, Indonesia. Indonesia is now the world's largest sanctuary for manta rays, after officials were persuaded by evidence that the gentle giants known for delighting tourists are worth more alive than dead. The government on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 announced that manta rays within the archipelago's 5.8 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. It will take time and cooperation at multiple levels to enforce the ban on poaching in the biggest global shark and ray fishery. (AP Photo/Herman Harsoyo)
In this Oct. 18, 2011 photo, manta ray swims in the water, off Raja Ampat islands, Indonesia.  Indonesia is now the world's largest sanctuary for manta rays, after officials were persuaded by evidence that the gentle giants known for delighting tourists are worth more alive than dead. The government on Friday, Feb. 21, 2014 announced that manta rays within the archipelago's 5.8 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. It will take time and cooperation at multiple levels to enforce the ban on poaching in the biggest global shark and ray fishery. (AP Photo/Herman Harsoyo)
Conservation groups are working to teach fishermen about the value of keeping the mantas alive, while business people, the military, water police and local officials are being engaged to assist. EPA / Alex Hofford
Conservation groups are working to teach fishermen about the value of keeping the mantas alive, while business people, the military, water police and local officials are being engaged to assist. EPA / Alex Hofford
Mantas are also frequently caught accidentally by fishermen, but they are not part of a major targeted industry in Indonesia as in other countries, such as Sri Lanka. (AP Photo / WildAid and Conservation International
Mantas are also frequently caught accidentally by fishermen, but they are not part of a major targeted industry in Indonesia as in other countries, such as Sri Lanka. (AP Photo / WildAid and Conservation International

The Indonesian government on Friday announced that manta rays within the archipelago’s 5.8 million square kilometers of ocean will be protected from fishing and export. It will take time and cooperation at multiple levels to enforce the ban on poaching in the biggest global shark and ray fishery.