WATCH: Dive instructor helps free manta from fishing line
WHAT started out as a scheduled dive off Lady Elliot Island turned into a rescue mission for instructor Andy Lomakin and an entangled manta ray.
On Wednesday, Mr Lomakin and a group were part-way through a dive just south of the island when the female manta ray began swimming towards them appearing to ask for help.
A Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort Executive Assistant to the General Manager Amy Gash said as the animal swam closer, the group noticed that she was entangled in fishing line and trailing a trolling board, obstructing her movement.
"The manta ray allowed the group to approach, and Andy to remove the debris until eventually cut free," Ms Gash said.
"Once the fishing line was removed, the manta ray swam off slowly and calmly leaving the dive group with an encounter they will never forget."
Footage of the encounter was captured by Matt Boyd and Dee Cooper; they describe the experience as "a genuine humbling experience and incredible to have captured it for others to share. Kudos to Andy for his persistence in getting all the line off".
Ms Gash said after speaking with Asia Armstrong from Project Manta - The manta rays of Australia, they learnt that the female manta ray had not yet been identified and named as part of their research.
Project Manta use citizen science and photo identification as a key method in identifying individual manta rays.
The manta rays' ventral markings, comparable to human fingerprints have allowed the team to identify over 1000 manta rays along the East coast of Australia.
This manta ray is now #1332 in the Project Manta database and has been named Madee by Matt Boyd and Dee Cooper.
"This encounter is a critical reminder of the impacts that marine debris is having on our beautiful wildlife," Ms Gash said.
"Sadly, many marine mammals, seabirds and fish die each year from being entangled in or ingesting marine litter.
"We look forward to seeing 'Madee' around Lady Elliot Island on future dives or snorkel adventures."