Several of Maui's manta rays have severely injured or severed fi - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Several of Maui's manta rays have severely injured or severed fins

A study done by the Hawaii Association for Marine Education and Research (HAMER) shows 10-percent of the more than 300 manta rays off West Maui have either damaged or severed fins from fishing lines.

Olowalu, six miles south of Lahaina, is one of a few places in the world where manta rays are known to gather. The only other place in the state is off Kona.

Dr. Mark Deakos, Executive Director for the group, has been studying these animals for the past decade, logging nearly 500 dives at Olowalu. He has dedicated his life to saving these gentle gliders.

"Imagine your child or grandchild had a 1 out of 10 chance of losing an arm or leg, because of that environment that child lived in…so that's essentially what these animals are facing," said Dr. Deakos.

Dr. Deakos says manta rays can get up to 22-feet long and 3,000 pounds.  They use their fins to eat. So a missing fin, can be crucial to their survival.

Dr. Deakos says the entanglements most likely happen at night, when the animals can't see. When they are caught, they lock their fins together and begin to roll to try to get free, only wrapping themselves tighter into the line.

“These are large 1,000-pound animals. They usually break free, but that tight wrap of line will slowly cut through its flesh over time and either amputate the fin completely or severely damage it to where the point where it's no longer functional,” he said.

To prevent this from happening, HAMER is raising money to buy acoustic and satellite tags to track the manta rays.

"These are a way to identify where these animals are spending their time, how often they're spending there, and that will give us the first piece of information on understanding where might be the most likely places they're getting entangled," Dr. Deakos said.

That way they can protect these charismatic creatures that have captured the hearts and minds of so many.

Click here if you want to join the effort in saving Maui's mantas.

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