Indonesia has carried out its first takedown since regulations were established to protect the nation’s endangered manta rays.
The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), a US-based group that operates a wildlife crimes unit in Indonesia, said that three traders were apprehended in the last two months for the illegal sale of these fish.
According to AsiaOne, the first two traders were arrested respectively in Surabaya city on 22 August and in Sidoarjo on 9 September, for smuggling shipments that included manta ray gill plates.
The third trader was apprehended in Indramayu on 26 September for attempting to sell an entire manta ray, weighing 60kg.
Manta rays have been hunted aggressively in Indonesia, as they are in high demand for traditional medicine in the China market.
With the aim to conserve these huge winged fish, Indonesia established the world’s biggest manta ray sanctuary last February, which will also boost the country’s tourism.
The sanctuary takes up millions of square kilometres of ocean surrounding the country, where fishing and export of the rays will carry a maximum fine of US$25,000.
“[The arrests convey] a clear message that Indonesia is serious about protecting its natural heritage against illegal wildlife traders,” said Joe Walston, WCS’s vice president for field conservation.
Sharif C. Sutardjo, Indonesia’s Marine Affairs Minister also supports the arrests, stating: “Illegal trading of protected species threatens the sustainability of marine and fisheries resources in Indonesia.”