Footage shows Freckles the ray approaching the divers, off the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia, and showing them that it had fish hooks caught under its eye.
One of the divers removed the hooks after several attempts, and footage of the unusual meeting has gone viral.
“We were really lucky in that we saw a manta nice and early, and quietly slipped into the water to spend some time with it,” photographer Monty Halls said in a Facebook post. “After a few minutes we noticed that it had some fish hooks buried beneath (its) right eye, and was repeatedly presenting itself to our guide Jake.”
“This wasn’t my imagination, again and again it came back, turned over, and paused in the water, and—plainly—was looking to us to be helped,” Halls added.
“Jake got some pliers, and—made several attempts, with the manta returning each time to allow him another go (it was obviously painful for it). Finally, he managed it, and the manta settled quietly on the bottom and stayed with us for a wee while.”
“It was an extraordinary half hour or so, and such a clear illustration that these animals have intelligence, trust, and a strong association with folks who treat them with respect,” he wrote.
In a video of the incident, Halls said the manta ray recognized the divers from previous expeditions.
Manta rays are one of the countless creatures found in Ningaloo Reef, a World Heritage site and one of the world’s longest near-shore reefs. Their wingspans can grow to more than 20 feet but, unlike sting rays, they cannot harm humans and often greet nearby divers.
Scuba Diver Saves Giant Manta Ray
It is an amazing recuse of a giant manta ray all caught on tape. In the 3-minute video filmed at the depths of the ocean, viewers quickly see a manta ray trapped in discarded fishing line. A scuba diver, in the right place at the right time, is there to save the day and free the manta ray from its entrapment.
The first thing the diver does is find the hook embedded in the manta ray to remove it. But after freeing the hook, the diver realizes much of the fishing line is still ensnared around the manta ray’s body and is left to be untangled. He patiently positions himself, swimming around its body, while beginning to untangle the line by hand. While doing so, he is careful to make sure he does not become ensnared himself.
“Ghost Gear” as it is called is discarded fishing gear left at sea. Hundreds of thousands of seals, turtles, whales, and other marine life are killed every year after becoming trapped by discarded fishing equipment. Viewers were shocked by the amount of line around this manta ray, and, fortunately, the diver could remove it all in time. But much marine life is not as lucky. Check out this amazing rescue for yourself and to see the harms of “ghost gear” lurking in our oceans.
Epoch Video contributed to this report.