Local waterman aims to educate others on manta ray conservation

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Last January, veteran scuba diver Keller Laros made international news when millions watched a video of him cutting free a bottlenose dolphin that was entangled in fishing line.

But it’s not the only creature in the ocean he’s been helping off the Kona coast.

“One of the most important things in conservation is education. People that are educated about an issue and about a creature and about an animal are much more likely very conscientious and conserve the animal,” Laros said.

Kona is one of the top three places in the world to see manta rays in the wild. Laros said there are two significant populations in Hawaii, about 300 off Maui and 150 off Hawaii Island.

On Aug. 21, he and his wife Wendy will travel to Orlando, Fla. to be a key speaker and exhibitor at the Manta Ray Symposium.

“We hope that by sharing our manta ray experience here in Kona, which is sustainable adventure for people to go diving and snorkeling, with that other parts of the world can also enjoy the same success that we’ve had,” Laros said.

Success through extensive research.

Over the years, Laros has learned about the manta’s biology, physiology and place in the ecosystem. But perhaps, more importantly, how people can responsibly interact with them.

“And what we’re hoping to do is be able to share our knowledge, our information, and help other places around the world that have in the past fished for manta rays,” Laros said.

He also aims to help other fisheries in their conservation efforts. Laros led the charge to establish a law that makes it illegal to knowingly kill or capture a manta ray in Hawaiian waters.

“Hopefully we can teach people from other parts in the world how to be equally successful as we’ve been,” Laros said.

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