A huge manta ray gave scuba divers a show of thanks after it was untangled from a commercial fishing line.

The scene unfolded on May 17 off Cocos Island, about 350 miles off the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica. The island and the 12 miles around it are part of a protected marine sanctuary and popular among divers looking to dive with rays, sharks and dolphins.

British scuba diving instructor Paul Slater was on a group trip near Cocos Island, Costa Rica when they spotted a 16ft giant manta ray caught up in a thick fishing line. With help from vacationing American diver Don Shellhammer and their dive master, they swam up behind and used their knives to cut it from the line. The scene was filmed by Paul Slater & Don Shellhammer with a GoPro camera they had along for the dive.

“I approached the animal and immediately noticed it was snared in a commercial fishing line around its body and dragging at least 200ft more behind it”

Although the manta appeared scared at first and swam away, it eventually slowed to a stop so they could release it from the entanglements. They then watched in amazement as it finally broke loose and began to swim around them in barrel rolls in what looked like a gesture of thanks.

Although there is a 12-mile exclusion zone around the island where fishing is prohibited, there is a constant battle with illegal fishing vessels who hope to capitalize on the area’s rich marine life.

I love these kind of stories – they help remind us of why we need to save the oceans. And why to remember to carry a dive knife!

One of the divers cuts away line from the manta. Image: YouTube screenshot

One of the divers cuts away line from the manta. Image: YouTube screenshot