Maldives Promotion House – During a dive session at Boduhithi Thila, one of the dive sites located in North Malé Atoll, a Maldivian Divemaster for Bandos Island Resort & Spa, Abdulla Sivad, recently saved a 2.5 metre manta ray completely entangled in a gill net at a depth of about 16 metres.
The young manta male, labelled Swan, was first discovered in August 2006 and was identified as number 179 in the manta ray database. According to Manta Trust the Swan has only been seen 8 times and only in the North Malé Atoll region during 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2012.
“I went on the dive as a guide. A while after we went underwater, I saw the shadow of a Manta approaching us. But when I looked at it I knew something was wrong,” Sivad explained how he saved the gentle giant.
“When it came closer I realised that a net was caught on it. The manta slowly came towards me and stopped right in front of me. When I looked closer I noticed that the net had already made its way in to the flesh, inflicting wounds of about 2 inches deep. The blood was still visible,” Sivad noted.
The manta ray had been caught in a gill net which is not used in Maldives. Believe to have drifted into the Maldivian waters from another country, these nets drift on the surface with ocean currents, entangling surface feeding mantas. While fishing with unsustainable and destructive nets such as the gill net is not allowed in Maldives it is a common practice in other Asian countries.
“While diving I always carry a knife with me, just in case I need it. So I took the knife and started to cut into the net. The manta just hovered in front of me and didn’t even move. It was as if it realised that I was trying to help it,” Sivad continued.
It took about a minute for Sivad to get the net off the manta, and by the time he had finished he was 25 metres deep. Mantas need to swim to maintain their depth. After the manta was saved Sivad began taking pictures to identify the manta. Called an id shot, photos of the dark dots on the belly side of the manta are unique and are used as fingerprints to identify it.
“After I freed the manta it slowly drifted down to the bottom to rest. It was still relaxing when we concluded our dive. We are confident that the manta will recover because we have seen mantas recovering from much worse wounds such as shark bites,” he said.
Sivad was also involved in a manta research conducted in Maldives in 2005, and he has been on many scientific expeditions below the equator. However, for Abdulla Sivad this is not the first manta ray that he has saved.
In 2009 Sivad saved another manta called Atlanta. Sivad came across Atlanta and spotted a trailing net that was caught around his cephalic fins. According to Manta Trust, the goose barnacles attached to the nets prove that these nets drift long distances, born upon ocean currents before they reach the Maldives.