Saving a Manta Ray



It’s very early in the morning when the two divers arrive at one of the known good spear fishing spots, not far from the still visible buildings of Maputo. Vic is the first to dive but he doesn’t stay down a long time. When he surfaces JP can see how excited he is.


“We have a fishing net down there. A fantastic Manta ray is trapped in it and will die unless we do something!” Once inside the boat, Vic explains the situation to JP and together they plan possible actions.


At the first impression it is a little strange to find these two young men used to spear fishing suddenly decided to save the trapped ray and other fish. Spear fishing is a sport similar to hunting and I believe a decent hunter likes to kill during the pursuit and not trapped or incapacitated game. For me both killings are bad. For the hunter, there’s a code drawing the line between a fair and unfair killing.


As the net in question is floating and in movement, it still catches specimens on its way and is also a dangerous trap for both divers. They plan to pick opposite corners of the net and cut it from the two extremes until they meet in the middle. Cutting underwater is not easy, requires attention and strength.


Vic is very close to the ray. He can perfectly see it’s a huge Manta showing signs of distress. He starts to caress the excited animal and, little by little, at each square of the net cut, it’s a little bit of the big slippery body conquering freedom.


“In a fraction of time the ray understood what I was trying to do and started to collaborate. I was even cuddling it like a house pet. I was so relieved when I saw that only one of the little ears was still trapped, one more gesture and complete freedom. It was then that JP signaled danger!”


He looked up with incredulity. A white shark was passing between the net and the boat, in a slow threatening motion. Vic sized the predator by the size of the boat. It was more than 6 meters long!


They have to assume a defensive position and as soon as the “white” is not in their way they swim in a hurry to the boat.


“When we see such dangerous beast so near, our only reflex is of survival. We forget everything else. Only in the safety of the boat I remembered the Manta ray still trapped by so little. It was impossible to go back. Sometimes I like to think the ray was able to finish my job but other times I remember how treacherous the nets are and how easily fish get caught. The more they fight, the more they are trapped. A truly mess, that’s what is going down there!”