‘Racing Extinction’ was a powerful documentary about the mass extinction of various species. Immediately after I watched the documentary, I was interested to follow up and see how Lamakera, Indonesia, the village known for manta fishing, had changed since the documentary was made in January 2015. A complex issue such as the extinction of mantas is quite simply an economic problem. There is a demand for manta, and it therefore follows that those seeking to profit from this demand will supply it. This is not to say the villagers of Lamakera are heartless profiteers; for the villagers, manta fishing a way of making a living. As a result, there are two separate issues a solution to manta fishing would have to address:
- Addressing the demand of manta. Without demand, fishers will no longer be incentivized to hunt mantas.
- Manta fishing is a major source of revenue for the village of Lamakera. If the fishers should not fish manta, what should they do? We cannot simply expect them to stop fishing by appealing to their moral goodness.
In ‘Racing Extinction’, the proposed solution was simply tourism. However, Lamakera is a tiny village that is hardly visible on a map (and does not even have an English Wikipedia page!).
What has happened in the past year since ‘Racing Extinction’ was released?
In 2013 (as shown in ‘Racing Extinction’), mantas were included in the 2013 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Mantas are now a protected species and Indonesia is now the world’s largest manta sanctuary (WildAid).
Many nonprofits, NGOs, and other interest groups have attempted to help with the protection of mantas and Lamakera’s transition away from hunting them. Active groups in Lamakera include the MacArthur Foundation, Conservation International, WildAid, and Oceanic Preservation Society. Together they form a formidable force necessary to tackle an issue like this.
Since the release of the documentary in early 2015, interest groups have worked hard to engage with the Lamakera community, educate it about the manta population, the state of the oceans, and the effects of overfishing both on the local ecosystem and economy (Conservation.org).
There have also been efforts to push Lamakera as a tourist destination. The details are not out yet on how this process is being achieved. I suspect this process will take many years. The National Geographic points to Raja Amat, in the Papua region of Indonesia, as a good example of a village that transitioned into a marine eco-tourism hotspot.
Impact of racing extinction
Admittedly, a year is not very long, especially when we are talking about an economic transition for an impoverished village. However, there have been notable efforts to help both the villagers of Lamakera and its wildlife by many influential interest groups. They have started their mission with an educational campaign. This step is crucial but it is still necessary to find an alternative for the fishers.