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Tangled in Trash: A Whale Shark Rescue

Aug. 28/13

Marine debris is choking marine life. Every year tens of thousands of marine animals and seabirds are killed and injured from eating or getting tangled up in our rubbish. Trash in the ocean threatens the survival of some of our most iconic marine animals.

It broke all our hearts to see this poor and helpless animal cruising by, many of us thought it was too difficult and dangerous to help her but I felt compelled to help.

Daniel Zapata, Solmar V

Divers on the Solmar V liveaboard were visiting an isolated dive site some 300 miles south west of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico when they discovered an injured whale shark.

When the divers saw the  thick rope wrapped around the whale shark, cutting into her skin and threatening the pregnant female's life and that of her unborn pup’s, Daniel and his team felt compelled to help the whale shark in an unbelievable rescue. The divers made two trips down to the whale shark to check its condition and remove the rope.

I asked Divemaster, Daniel Zapata, to say a few words about the whale shark rescue he led last year.

PA: What was the first thing you did when you saw the whale shark?

It broke all our hearts to see this poor and helpless animal cruising by, many of us thought it was too difficult and dangerous to help her but I felt compelled to help.

PA: How did it feel to free this whale shark?

We talked about it for some time between dives, when we saw the whale shark again I knew I had to help. It felt so good to cut this whale shark free, I found a thinner section of the rope and cut through it. I unwrapped the rope from each side of the whale shark and finally she was free.

PA: Have you ever rescued a marine animal before?

I have not rescued another marine animal before, but if I needed to do it again I wouldn't hesitate.

PA: What was the most upsetting part of this rescue?

While cutting the rope it was upsetting to feel how much the whale shark was suffering due to open wounds. It really did hurt my feelings but at the same time while cutting the rope I was connecting myself with the surface saying  --please people out there have education and respect for the ocean.

PA: Daniel, you work in places on every divers bucket list with divers enjoying shark and manta experiences on your trips. How often do you encounter wildlife suffering from the impact of humans?

Sharks and mantas are inspiring! I wish I could say I never encounter wildlife suffering but the reality is different. Unfortunately it’s happening to sharks, yellow fin tunas and more.

PA: What message do you share with your divers about ocean protection and the importance of taking action?

My message to my divers is very simple: may the beauty of our ocean and everything that lives in it touch your heart with a message of tenderness and inspire your life to protect it always. I am sure Dive Against Debris will encourage and reinforce the respect for our ocean and beautiful creatures living in it!

Thanks Daniel and the Solmar V Crew for sharing your inspiring story with us.

ORIS is the official sponsor of Project AWARE's Dive Against Debris 2013.

All donations through September will be matched by ORIS (up to $10,000).

With your help, we can implement lasting change for the ocean we all love and need to protect. Your support is one of the most important investments you can make for the future of our ocean planet. Make a donation today.

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