Though the crew of Epic Diving was hoping to encounter oceanic whitetip sharks when they hopped into the blue waters off Cat Island in the Bahamas last July, it was a dusky shark that grabbed their attention.

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Image: Epic Diving

The team was horrified to see the large male had a deep wound just behind its gill slits, caused by a large rope (presumably discarded fishing gear) that was tightly wrapped around its body.

“Not only could we see how deeply the rope dug into his skin, but one of his pectoral fins was pinned back, and the shark was incredibly skinny,” explains underwater photographer and expedition leader Amanda Cotton. “Everyone agreed we had to do something – this shark was dying a slow death.”

As you can imagine, getting a shark (or any fish for that matter) to stay put in the water is not easy (and we certainly don't recommend trying this on your next dive), but determined to give the rescue their best effort, Cotton slipped back into the water – scissors in hand – with Epic Diving owners Vincent and Debra Canabal.

"We used some bait to lure the shark closer to us, as well as to distract him from our mission. We were all fearful that we’d only get one attempt at the rescue. If the shark felt [threatened], he’d likely take off and we’d never seem him again,” says Cotton.

Luckily, the rope had just enough slack for Canabal to wedge the pair of shears underneath it and make the initial cut … and despite a bit of thrashing, the animal rolled free from the constricting rope unharmed. "I don’t know if he felt a bit of relief when I cut it, but he stayed around to let us finish the job,” Canabal says.

Though the rescue was a rewarding experience for the team, they watched the shark swim into the blue unsure if a full recovery would be possible. So you can imagine their excitement when, nearly a month later, the very animal swam up from the depths with both a healed wound and a healthy profile! “[He] looked so much better!” says Cotton. “From that day on, he was a daily visitor to the boat ... and let’s just say we tried to fatten him up. He remained a reliable visitor for the rest of our season and we are anxious to see if he’ll be around next year.”

Image: Epic Diving
Image: Epic Diving
"Judging by the depth of the injury, the rope was there for a long time." Image: Epic Diving
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In just one month, the wound showed great improvement. Image: Epic Diving