Manta Catalog Azores is a scientific and conservation project founded in 2012. The project aims to develop our understanding of the Mobulid rays found in the Azores and the Eastern Atlantic – a region where little data has been collected to understand these elusive rays.
In other areas of the world, research focused on manta rays revolves around the collection of ID photos – images that capture the unique patterns and markings found on the ventral surface of each animal. The sickle-fin mobulas (Mobula tarapacana) visiting the Azores also have unique ventral markings, leading the project to establish the world’s first photographic ID database for this species.
Along with the location and date a photo was taken, these ID photos allow researchers to recognise individuals. Over time an ID database can reveal information about the make-up of the population, as well as patterns about how they migrate around and utilise the waters around the Azores. This information is crucial in order to effectively manage and conserve these rays.
Most of MCA’s work has been conducted in collaboration with local dive operators and their guests, who support the project as ‘Citizen Scientists’. Guests contribute any ID photos they capture on their dives, and dive operators report any sightings of mobulas made throughout the season. More recently local recreational fishermen have committed to report any encounters they have with these animals. In the future the project hopes to scale up the amount of ID data it collects from visiting divers, as well as further engage the wider local community with understanding the conservation and economic importance of the mobula rays that visit the region.