An ongoing problem, both here in Hawaii and in all the oceans of the world, is marine debris. There are floating garbage patches of such a size that nations will surely soon be fighting over whose territory they are. There’s debris washed up onto beaches that is both unsightly and dangerous. And then there’s discarded or lost items that are a danger to marine creatures everywhere.
Sadly, I saw one such example recently. I hadn’t seen an eagle ray in a while, so I was excited to see this one. But it’s progress seemed a bit odd and I quickly realized that it was, unwillingly, towing some kind of marine debris. It looked like an old net or something similar, on the end of a loop of line that had become hooked over the beak of the ray.
In the top photo, the clump of debris can be seen on the right, above the black triggerfish swimming in the opposite direction. The loop of line can also be seen. In the photo to the right, the line can be seen looped over the bill of the ray. I shared this photo with several people, alerting them to the situation, and some thought the line was caught in the ray’s mouth, but I don’t think that’s the case, though it has clearly dug a furrow into the face of the ray.
While I spread the word about this, there’s not a lot that can be done. I didn’t see the ray again and, to my knowledge, no one else has either. Even if they do, the chances of being able to approach the ray and free the line are slim. The debris is probably part of some fishing gear, which is lost in great abundance around here.
Hopefully, the ray will find some way to dislodge its unwanted haul, but while that could happen, it’s also possible that the ray is stuck with its burden. And, in the end, that might tip the balance in its chances of survival.