Karen Fuentes is the founder and director of the Manta Caribbean Project (MCP), established as a non-profit in 2015 in Isla Mujeres, México. Our collaborative work focuses on studying the devil and manta rays in the Mexican Caribbean through research, conservation, and awareness we aim to contribute to the health of mobulid species in our region.
The MCP work with local communities, and regional government on different projects related to management, fisheries, marine debris, and environmental education in the northern tip of the Yucatan peninsula.
The MCP is an affiliate project for The Manta Trust, Karen is also a member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative an initiative to address ghost fishing in the oceans furthermore MCP contributed to the microplastic research projects back in 2017 with the 5Gyres Trawl share program and other management projects.
Monitoring mobulid rays
Located in the northern region of the Yucatan Peninsula, within the Mexican Caribbean Biosphere Reserve, lies the transitional area between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mexican Caribbean where every year from May to September, upwellings of nutrient and plankton rich waters attract many hungry filter feeders, including manta rays, West Atlantic pygmy devil rays and one of the largest known aggregations of whale sharks in the world!
Current legislation forbids the landing of manta and devil rays in this region, however there are not sufficient management measures in place to enforce this ban across such a large area. Unfortunately, this manta population is under threat from fisheries that are targeting them primarily to use as bait for shark fishing. Additionally, it is feared that many manta and devil rays are also caught and killed incidentally as bycatch by fisheries targeting other species in the region.
The MCP is a Mexican-registered non-profit organization, based in Isla Mujeres. Founded in 2013 by Karen Fuentes, to conduct research on and describe the local manta ray species, promote awareness in the local communities through educational programs, and to attain knowledge and data that can be used to develop sustainable models for the conservation of this species.
Why is this manta population so important?
MCP believes the manta population seen in the Mexico Caribbean to be a third, putative (yet undescribed) species of manta ray that is sympatric to the oceanic manta ray in this region. This ‘Caribbean’ manta ray appears to occupy a similar niche to the reef manta ray and is similar in size, but its dorsal colouration is a cross between oceanic and reef manta rays.