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Lifestyle // Currents
Ron Mizutani

A Rescue At Sea Seen By Millions

It is a video clip that has touched the hearts of millions of people across the world. Veteran scuba instructor Keller Laros cuts free a 10-foot-long bottlenose dolphin that is entangled in 14 feet of fishing line.

Photographer Martina Wing captured on video the heart-warming rescue off Keahole Point near Kona International Airport. The clip lasts about eight minutes, but the obvious connection between diver and dolphin is instant.

“The first time the dolphin approached me from behind and made a really loud squeak, and when I turned around the dolphin was about three feet from me,” says Laros, who was observing manta rays on a night dive Jan. 11 with several visitors. “It swam past and around the circle of divers. When it approached the second time I was able to get a better look, and I noticed right away that it had fishing line coming from its mouth, wrapping around its left pectoral fin and trailing off down the side of the body.”

Laros is known worldwide as the Manta Man. The founder of Manta Pacific Research Foundation is considered by many to be the foremost expert on the manta ray population in Kona. I met Laros several years ago when he invited me on a night dive to view the massive manta rays at Garden Eel Cove.

It was one of the most exhilarating experiences I’ve ever had in the ocean.

Laros instructed all of us to respect the space of these beautiful animals. Every time one would swoop in and glide by us Laros would flash a large smile. Even though he had been on thousands of night dives, it was as if he was watching this for the first time. I recall saying to myself, “It’s like he’s talking to the manta rays.” Perhaps he was.

Laros continued to share the story of his encounter with the bottlenose dolphin.

“When I noticed the line, I said, ‘You’ve got a fishing line.’ As the dolphin drew closer, I repeated ‘You’ve got a fishing line’ and signaled it to come here with my finger. Much to my surprise, it swam right to me, and I began to work to free it.”

Laros worked quickly and gently removed the line that was wrapped around the dolphin’s fin and mouth. The dolphin surfaced for a breath of air and then returned to Laros and another diver. They were able to remove more line before the dolphin swam away.

Laros knew the injured dolphin had complete trust in him.

“It was an emotional encounter,” says Laros. “My first surprise was when the dolphin was right behind me. Second, I was shocked when the dolphin came over to me after I signaled it. Next, I was nervous that I’d screw up, drop my scissors and not be able to help the poor dolphin. When the hook and line were removed, I was relieved and happy that the dolphin was going to be OK.”

The video clip already has more than 2 million views on YouTube. Laros is humbled by all the attention and hopes those who watch it see more than just a rescue at sea.

“I think this encounter has reinforced my belief that we can all make a difference in the world by being good and simply doing the right things every day,” says Laros. “Be it holding a door for someone, recycling cans, bottles and paper, being polite and patient with others, or helping an injured animal, do your best and do what’s right and every day the world can get better.”

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