Fisherman sacrifice their own catch to save giant manta rays trapped in nets

This is the dramatic moment fishermen leapt into the ocean to sacrifice their own catch and free two endangered giant manta rays that were trapped in their nets.

The crew was hauling up the rigs in the early hours of Tuesday (April 30) morning when they noticed the 150kg creatures thrashing around.

Captain Thana Ketsaard ordered his workers to leap into the water and help to save the manta rays, which were both around five metres long, and a protected species.

The majestic creatures have suffered vast declines over the last eight years due to illegal hunting by trawlers who sell them to be used in soups, mainly in China.

But footage shows how the kindhearted workers battled to force down the nets - losing money by sacrificing the day’s catch of hundreds of fish - in order to release the manta rays into the safety of the ocean.

The rescue was filmed in the Andaman Sea off the coast of Phang Nga in southern Thailand.

Ship owner Thana said: ''The nets were being pulled in after midnight when I saw the two rays stuck inside. There were lots of fish in the nets but my first idea was to release the manta rays.

''We need to catch the fish to eat but manta rays are a rare species which we must respect. It is unethical for fisherman to keep them.

''Even though we lost some of the fish to free the rays, it is the right thing to do and I hope that it is a good example for other fishermen who are thinking about catching manta rays and selling them.''

The giant manta ray is the largest ray in the world and has been targeted by fisheries to the point where it has become an endangered species.