Private Project

The Patterns of the Ocean - Protecting Indonesia's Manta Rays

Manta rays are iconic giants of the sea. With very low reproductive rates, manta rays are extremely vulnerable to environmental changes and pressure from fisheries. Although manta rays are of no real commercial interest for human consumption, the gentle giants are under another threat: According to a new trend in Chinese Medicine, manta ray gill rakers allegedly cure all kinds of ailments and fetch high prices on the markets. Within only a couple of years, this demand showed a negative impact on population numbers of these fascinating creatures.

Until a short time ago, Indonesia was one of the largest exporters of manta ray gills. The vast archipelago is part of the Coral Triangle, an area with the world‘s greatest diversity of coral and marine species. Therefore it is also a popular scuba diving destination and many tourists come to see majestic manta rays that gather at certain hotspots like Komodo, Bali or Raja Ampat.

In our film, we accompany manta ray reseacher Elitza Germanov (Marine Megafauna Foundation) on a field trip in Komodo. She explains the current scientific research activities on manta rays in Indonesia and the achievements that can be made by the contribution of common people through “citizen science”, especially divers or snorkeling tourists with cameras. Scientists are after photos and videos of manta rays, in particular so-called “belly shots”, because the unique spot patterns on the ventral side of a manta ray are as individual as human fingerprints and can reveal important information to scientists.

By matching manta ID photos through an online, worldwide accessible database, researchers were able to prove the migration of manta rays between established national parks (e.g. Komodo and Nusa Lembongan) passing by highly aggressive and directed fishing areas in Indonesia. In combination with a study about the economic value of manta ray related tourism, the listing of manta rays at CITES and CMS, these new findings led to the decision of the Indonesian government to create a manta sanctuary in its whole exclusive economic zone in 2014.

Gaining this nation-wide protective status was an amazing breakthrough for global and local conservation groups. Direct fishing of manta rays is prohibited in Indonesia now and trade of manta ray products is punished by large fines or jail, although enforcement (and education) is difficult in a country with over 17.000 islands.

And are there maybe other threats as well? Our film will identify plastic pollution, especially on the microscopic scale, as another factor that is impacting plankton-feeders such as manta rays. During the UN World Ocean Conference earlier this year, Indonesia has pledged to curb its ocean plastic problem and reduce it by 70% until 2025.

Using manta rays, a protected species now, as an umbrella species in the fight against marine plastic pollution will benefit the whole marine ecosystem, not only in Indonesia, but the entire Coral Triangle.

  • Hendrik S. Schmitt
    We live underwater, Little Teeth - Saving Sharks on Bali, The Pale Horse - Coral Apocalypse
  • Claudia Schmitt
    We live underwater, Little Teeth - Saving Sharks on Bali, The Pale Horse - Coral Apocalypse
  • The Jetlagged
    We live underwater, Little Teeth - Saving Sharks on Bali, The Pale Horse - Coral Apocalypse
  • Elitza Germanov
    Interview Partners
    Marine Megafauna Foundation
  • Sarah Lewis
    Interview Partners
    Indonesian Manta Project, Manta Watch
  • Gary Stokes
    Interview Partners
    Sea Shepherd Asia
  • Jo Marlow
    Interview Partners
    Misool Foundation
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    45 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    January 1, 2018
  • Production Budget:
    25,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
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  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
  • International Ocean Film Festival
    San Francisco
    United States
    March 9, 2018
    World Premiere
  • ADEX
    April 8, 2018
  • International Wildlife Film Festival
    United States
  • Elements International Environmental Film Festival
  • Barents Ecology Film Festival
    Russian Federation
    April 29, 2018
    Russian Premiere
    Official Selection
  • International Nature Film Festival Gödöllő
    May 26, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Finisterra Arrábida Film Art & Tourism Festival
    May 26, 2018
    Official Selection
  • SunChild 8th International Environmental Festival

    Official Selection
  • International Ecological Film Festival TO SAVE AND PRESERVE
    Russian Federation
    June 4, 2018
    Official Selection
  • Green Screen International Nature Film Festival
    September 15, 2018
    German Premiere
    Nominee Best Newcomer
  • Wildlife Conservation Film Festival
    New York
    United States
    Official Selection
  • Wildlife Vaasa Festival-International Nature Film Festival
    Official Selection
  • CineEco Seia
    October 13, 2018
  • Voices from the Waters International Traveling Film Festival
  • CineMare Int'l Ocean Film Festival
    October 26, 2018
  • 11th International Kuala Lumpur Eco Film Festival
    Kuala Lumpur
Director Biography - Hendrik S. Schmitt

The Jetlagged are Hendrik and Claudia, action-loving filmmakers and passionate divers always on the search for adventures from the polar circle to the equator. They enjoy diving as a lifestyle and support various environmental projects all over the world. As divers, The Jetlagged consider themselves ambassadors of the sea and are fully committed to protect the world underwater. By taking pictures, shooting films and telling stories in and around the sea, they want to inspire others to enjoy, explore and protect our oceans. The Jetlagged's films have received awards at international film festivals around the globe. They are also Dive Ambassadors for XCEL Dive Europe, PADI AmbassaDiver and Artists for Sea Shepherd.

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