PADI Divemaster Abdulla Sivad has led hundreds of dives among the awe-inspiring mantas in the Maldives. But this dive, this day, at a dive site in North Malé, was different. At 54 feet down and out of the blue, a manta approached, completely entangled in netting, which was cutting into the flesh of its pectoral fins with every move.
“I went on the dive as a guide,” said Sivad. “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.
“When it came closer, I realized that a net was caught on it. The manta slowly came toward us and stopped right in front of me. When I looked closer, I noticed that the net had already made its way into the flesh, inflicting wounds two inches deep. The blood was still visible,” said Sivad.
“While diving I always carry a knife, just in case. 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 realized that I was trying to help it,” said Sivad. “After I freed the manta, it slowly drifted down to the bottom to rest.”
Stories like these make real the onslaught of marine-debris issues facing the world’s oceans, and they have become all too frequent in recent years for animals, including whales, dolphins, sea turtles and sharks. As we consume more disposable goods and continue ever-increasing fishing efforts, the items we discard — even thousands of miles inland — and the fishing gear we lose or abandon threatens all oceanic wildlife.
What can you do? Each one of us can help by Diving Against Debris with Project AWARE. Grab our online guide to removing debris safely every time you dive. Afterward, log your data with us. The information we collect will help inform better waste-management policies, and also help target areas needing extra cleanup efforts.
Project AWARE’s Debris Month of Action is coming up in September; there’s no better time than now to begin regular debris dives. Visit projectaware.org for resources to get you started or for a copy of the online action map to find an event near you.