MAKAKO BAY — Last week, one of Kona’s most popular attractions took a literal hit.
Scuba divers spotted a manta ray at Makako Bay with serious and fresh injuries to the back part of its pectoral fin consistent with contact from a boat propeller. The incident likely occurred on March 11, shortly before divers spotted and photographed the injured animal.
The manta injured, an 8-foot, 8-year-old male named Eli, is a regular visitor to the manta site and was first spotted at the Keauhou Bay site in December 2010.
Keller Laros, co-founder of the Manta Pacific Research Foundation, which has worked toward establishing tour operator standards and documents and posts updates on individual animals, noted that another MPRF-certified manta naturalist at the same site in the late afternoon had identified the same ray hours earlier without the injury.
“We’ve known him since he was very young, and now he’s almost fully mature,” Laros said.
DLNR representatives said West Hawaii DOCARE Officer Jerome Judd had seen the images of the injured manta.
“The wider spacing of the propeller marks seems to possibly indicate a vessel passing through the area at a speed greater than the usual ‘slow-no-wake’ speed employed by manta tour operators at Keahole or Makako Bay,” Judd said.
While the state does have a statute that prohibits capturing or killing manta rays within state marine waters, the DLNR stated, “this was most likely an accident, and not intentional.”
Fortunately, other mantas with similar boating injuries have survived, which is what was expected of Eli’s condition. Eli was spotted again on Saturday evening, with deep wounds, although it appeared he would survive.
But, “this incident was probably avoidable. Whoever was driving that boat was going faster than safe and not being observant,” Laros said.
Editor’s note: Keller Laros is an owner of Laros Diving Inc., which owns a 50 percent share of Jack’s Diving Locker where writer Meghan Miner Murray is a part-time employee.