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New Havens for Manta Rays, Whale Sharks

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Here’s good news from the Indian Ocean: Three new marine protected areas (MPAs) in the Maldives will help shelter exquisite manta rays, along with whale sharks, the ocean’s largest fish. The newly protected waters also harbor an abundance of other reef sharks.

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Maldives Environment Minister Mohamed Aslam announced the MPAs to commemorate World Oceans Day on June 8, reports David Braun on his NatGeo News Watch blog. They include coral reefs and waters in and around Baa atoll Hanifaru, Baa atoll An’gafaru, and South Ari atoll Maamigili.

“The government is committed to protecting and preserving the Maldives’ exceptional biodiversity” said Aslam. “The marine environment is the bedrock of our economy, supporting our largest industries, tourism and fisheries.

“The marine protected area sites are globally significant. By protecting them we are helping to protect manta rays and sharks throughout the Maldives.”

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Measures designed to safeguard marine wildlife in the MPAs will include restrictions on fishing, diving, snorkeling, boat speeds, and pollution from local islands.

Get the full story on NatGeo News Watch, learn more about Maldives manta rays in the July 2009 issue of National Geographic magazine, and see Thomas P. Peschak’s gallery of Maldives manta ray photographs.

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Photographs courtesy Thomas P. Peschak/Save Our Seas Foundation

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