HONOLULU (KHON2) — Many on Oahu’s North Shore are mourning the loss of a young manta ray known as “Blushing.” The manta ray apparently tangled itself in a boat’s anchor line in Waimea Bay, Marine animal advocates are now calling for better boat management of the area. 

The beloved manta ray was found dead Friday morning, beachgoers notified lifeguards of the lifeless sea animal and they removed Blushing from the water.

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University of Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology Graduate Student Corey Nevels said they have been monitoring Blushing since 2020. 

Nevels said, “I didn’t realize that he had so many friends in the community. But, you know, everyone’s very devastated by this.” 

Nevels said the manta ray’s whole body was entangled in a line, she described a possible scenario of what happened. 

“He swam into the line and didn’t know it was there. And then as he swam into it, he pulled it forward and then flipped to try to get out of it and then just wrapped himself in,” Nevels said. “Mantas, you know, they can’t swim backward, they have to continuously swim in order to breathe. So he basically got tangled and drowned.”

Nevels said Blushing was named by a photographer after the blush spot pattern on his belly. 

The manta ray was a “reef” manta, which state law prohibits the capture or killing of the species, while oceanic manta rays are federally protected. 

The Manta Pacific Research Foundation President Keller Laros said boating and human activity pose some of the biggest threats to manta rays. 

“If you’re fishing in an area where there are lots of areas you might want to fish somewhere else,” Laros said. “If you’re, if you’re driving, whether it might be manta rays, maybe drive slowly and watch out, which is always a good idea when you’re driving a boat.”

He said the death of this juvenile manta is a real loss, as the species does not populate as quickly as others.

“Low reproductive rates, they don’t migrate,” Laros said. “If you lose a number of manta rays in one location like Oahu or Maui or Kona, it could very substantially impact the overall longevity and sustainability of the species.”

Meanwhile, Nevels said better management of boat activity in Waimea Bay could make it safer for swimmers and marine life.

She has encountered boats going fast in shallow areas near where people swim. 

“The law right now states that boats aren’t allowed to anchor within 200 feet of the shore,” Nevels said. “So I think even if we can extend that and require boats to hook up to the moorings and have signs for no wake zone, no fishing zone.”

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KHON2 News requested comment on the incident from the state’s Department of Land and Natural Resources and is awaiting a response.