The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has warned action against those who engage in harmful practices against all species of rays in the Maldives.
A statement issued by the agency on Thursday read that while we are currently marking the holiday season, there is an increased interest in manta rays, sting rays, and eagle rays which are commonly found in the Maldives.
However, they highlighted that several cruising, snorkeling, and diving trips are centered around harmful practices and activities against this species of marine life.
The agency also stressed that all the species of rays that are found in the Maldives are protected under the Environmental Protection and Preservation Act of Maldives (Law No. 4/93), highlighting that under the Protected Species Regulation (2021/R-25) it is a violation to feed or handle any species of rays.
EPA further added that while stingray feeding is a popular tourism activity, it is linked to various negative impacts on stingray health, behavior, and ecology, such as the development of shoaling behaviour, altered feeding habits & skin abrasions from handling that compromise their immune system.
They expressed their concern, stating that it is also possible that some behavioral modifications are being learned and transmitted to new generations of rays, risking long-term changes to ray populations where frequent feeding occurs.
"We are extremely concerned about the effects of consistently high levels of feeding and visitation upon the stingray populations across the Maldives, and an urgent need has been identified for long term monitoring and phasing out of the practice," the agency stated.
They also urged all resorts, guest houses, and other tour operators to refrain from these harmful practices, and instead create an atmosphere for visitors to safely interact with wildlife in their natural environment.
They also warned caution against such practices, reiterating that action will be taken against those who continue to partake in these activities.