LANAI (HAWAIINEWSNOW) - The Kawelo family was diving off Kaunolu, Lanai when they noticed a 20-foot whale shark swimming right next to them.
Kanehoalani was the first to see the heavy gauge line wrapped around its midsection.
"I wanted it to stay there with us so that we could cut the rope off and get it free and stop the rope from hurting it because it was really digging into a couple of its fins," Kanehoalani Kawelo said.
It appears to be the same juvenile shark that was spotted about two weeks ago off Olowalu, and then again off Molokini.
Experts alerted the public and said the entanglement could be life-threatening. They urged anyone who saw the entangled whale shark to call NOAA so officials could get the animal help.
But Kapua Kawelo and her husband Joby Rohrer, who are both biologists, weren't aware of the previous sightings.
They just floated and tracked the animal knowing it needed their help.
Then Joby started diving.
"We waited a long time to consider what our responsibility was, what our kuleana was. We know that people don't necessarily encourage this type of thing but both of us are biologist. We felt like we were sort of in tune with what the animal was doing and maybe we were meant to be there," Kapua Kawelo said.
"I'm thinking there's no way I'm gonna get through that rope it's so fat," Rohrer said. "Then Kapua was saying well you should try! But I was thinking if I get close to that animal and touch it, I don't want to startle the animal, I don't want to stress the animal out, I don't want to make it bolt."
Rohrer said the line was about five inches thick and it took him five dives just to cut through it with his four-inch knife.
"The rope weighed probably like 150 pounds," daughter Hoohila Kawelo said. "I was just dragging it in the water and I couldn't imagine what that shark was going through, having to haul that around everywhere."
Rohrer says the experience is a good reminder to be conscious of our impact on mother nature.
"That's a good example of the things that we discard can destroy beautiful animals like that so easily," he said.