A public information meeting planned this weekend to discuss new, proposed rules for the Makako Bay and Keauhou manta ray viewing sites has been rescheduled due to the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Lester. The Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR), Boating and Ocean Recreation Division (DOBOR) will now hold the meeting on Saturday, September 24, 2016 from 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Palamanui Campus of Hawaii Community College, 73-4255 Ane Keohokalole Highway, Room B-126, in Kailua-Kona, Hawai‘i.
Manta ray viewing opportunities on the Kona coast are unique worldwide Tours are conducted in two specific areas where mantas tend to congregate at night to feed on plankton — Makako Bay (Garden Eel Cove) and the coastline fronting the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Hotel. The activity has become so popular in recent years that it has reached a point that is unsustainable and unsafe. Regulation is needed to preserve the resource and address the dangers posed by overcrowding of boats and swimmers/divers in the water.
The first part of the meeting to be held on September 24 will be devoted to discussing the history of manta ray viewing on the Kona coast. The second part of the meeting will be to present DOBOR’s proposed management plan in detail and collect feedback from all interested stakeholders.
DOBOR staffers have been working closely with DLNR Division of Aquatic Resources staff, commercial tour operators, the staff of the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Hotel and other stakeholders to draft administrative rules to mitigate environmental hazards and decrease the potential risk for accidents causing harm to people or manta rays.
In 2016 DOBOR has been surveying the two manta viewing sites to determine where and how additional moorings could be placed to alleviate coral damage from vessel anchoring and allow for a safe, sustainable and environmentally conscious regulation of commercial manta diving activities.
DOBOR has drafted a proposed management plan and potential management options for the sites based on two years of collected stakeholder input. The proposed management plan contemplates strategies such as prohibiting anchoring at the sites, limiting the number of commercial operators, prohibiting rafting, and restricting live boating to improve safety.
In order to give stakeholders time to review the proposed management plan before the September 24 meeting, DOBOR will release the plan on its website on September 10, 2016. Interested parties can access the proposed management plan and get meeting updates by visiting DOBOR’s meeting announcement page: http://dlnr.hawaii.gov/dobor/meetings/