HONOKOHAU HARBOR, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - A tricky mission is underway to free an ocean predator entangled in rope near Honokohau Harbor on the Big Island. The 12-foot female tiger shark was first spotted a couple of weeks ago.
"It has obviously been on for a few years. It's impeding its gills. It's all the way pressed up to its pecs, dug in a few inches all the way around," explained Michael Moody, a captain for Ocean Eco Tours. "If it digs in any harder, it could push back its pecs back farther and eventually it will kill it.
The Department of Land and Natural Resources issued a permit to Ocean Eco Tours for an emergency disentanglement using a baited hook and line fishing method. The company made its first attempt on Saturday outside the mouth of the harbor.
"A couple people tried to grab it -- Good Samaritans -- trying to get it off on their own," said Moody.
One of them was free diver Bradley Beckett. The Captain Cook resident works for a tour company at the harbor.
"I grabbed onto line, went for a little ride, was not able to get my knife under the line. I let go," he described. "My heart rate was through the roof and I could not hang on."
Seth Pleasants, who works as a deckhand for Bite Me Sportfishing, captured the encounter on video. He was snorkeling with a friend nearby and stumbled upon the rescue operation.
"It literally swam right past me, like I'd say like 6, 7, 8 feet away from me, and there's this guy and he's following it with a knife!" recalled Pleasants. "When I saw it turn around and start coming towards me, that's when I really started freaking out.
Pleasants was able to swim away safely.
On Monday, Ocean Eco Tours went back out, this time accompanied by DLNR workers. They weren't able to find the entangled shark, but the company plans to try again soon.
"Make sure everybody stays a nice distance away from us so we're not endangering anybody with bait in the water," said Moody.