Manta Rays on Lady Elliot Island

We’ve just returned from the beautiful Lady Elliot Island where we have been working with Prospero Productions who are filming a documentary about people who live and work in coastal environments. We first visited Lady Elliot Island in May 2012 on a pilot survey which was a pre-cursor to our Great Barrier Reef and Coral Sea campaign. It is one of 32 locations that we surveyed in 2012 and, like all of our survey sites, is a location that we will continue to visit in our mission to monitor change.

A special time of year

Lady Elliot Island is located at the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and at this time of year something quite special can happen in this region. An ocean current called the "Capricorn Eddy" causes cool nutrient-rich currents to upwell and mix with the surface waters that fringe the island's reefs. These fertile water columns are filled with microscopic organisms called plankton which are a critical food source for large aquatic organisms like fish, whales and most notably for us this week – manta rays.

A manta ray research hotspot

Lady Elliot Island is one of the best places in the world to see manta rays, there have been occasions when hundreds of these creatures have gathered in the area to feed. The team from “Project Manta” study the movements of these large filter-feeding animals in an effort to better understand migration patterns. This data is particularly useful in the face of climate change. The Project Manta team happened to also be on the island and reported seeing 100 mantas prior to our arrival. Manta rays can be identified by the markings on their undersides, like a human fingerprint these markings are unique and help the team count and track these magical animals.

You can learn more about the work that Project Manta do here:

Stay tuned for more information about the new documentary that will go to air in 2014.