Recent footage of a giant manta ray caught in fishing net is an alarming example of how pollution harms marine wildlife.

Fortunately, when this manta ray became stranded on the beach, someone nearby took action. He couldn’t lift the massive ray on his own, though, and instead of rushing to help, bystanders simply took pictures.

Finally, with enough persuading from the man, people joined in the rescue effort. Working together, they raced against the clock – and the tide – to free the ray from the net and return the animal to the water.

It was no easy feat, but eventually, the giant fish was able to swim back into the water unassisted.

The reluctance of beach-goers to assist in freeing the ray is the product of a phenomenon known as the “bystander effect,” which occurs when people witnessing an emergency or someone in distress don’t take action because they’re confident someone else will intervene.

This story highlights the importance of responding to distressed and injured animals with a sense of urgency. If not for one man’s decision to aid the animal while their life hung in the balance, and his successful efforts to recruit help, the manta ray would have died senselessly as people watched on, filming the unnecessary suffering.

While immediate help was a must in this instance, it’s  important to remember that in most cases, the best way to help an animal in need is to alert local wildlife rescue professionals rather than handling them yourself.