Brian Szuster's Coastal Research Lab | Teaching




Recreational Use of West Hawai‘i
Manta Ray Dive Sites

Diving and snorkeling with manta rays offshore of Kailua-Kona on the Big Island of Hawai‘i is an excellent example of how the increasing demand for a marine resource can produce negative impacts on biophysical resources and user experiences. The popularity of Manta ray viewing in Kailua-Kona grew steadily over the years, but exploded recently as this dive was recognized as a "top ten" underwater experience by several leading international diving publications Although the State does not formally monitor this type of recreational use, anecdotal reports suggest that the number of vessels visiting manta ray dive sites has more than doubled in the last 10 years. This has produced increasing levels of crowding, user conflict, and impacts on marine resources as a result of regular substrate contact by users. A lack of social data at these sites limits the State’s ability to identify use thresholds, implement science-based management strategies, and protect marine environments and user experiences. This research project attempts to address these data gaps and improve the sustainability of manta ray viewing opportunities.