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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Rescuers free butanding, pilot whale not as lucky

TAGBILARAN CITY, June 17, (PIA)--IT all happened on the same day, June 9, 2011.

Marine mamma rescue volunteers successfully freed a male juvenile whale shark entangled in a fisherman’s net in Cantagay, Jagna, but a pilot whale in Bien Unido was not as lucky.

Reports from Physalus, a non government organization that promotes the protection of the environment with an emphasis on marine habitat protection through educating coastal communities by letting them understand their ecosystems said Barangay Cantagay chairman Joel Rosario sounded the alarm when one of his fishermen constituents reported a snagging incident a few hundred meters from the shorelines of the village.

Chairman Rosario immediately called the local Bohol Rescue Unit for Marine Mammals (BRUMM), where some members are from the town to facilitate the rescue.

Dr. Alessandro Ponzo led the responding team comprised of Kristina Pahang, volunteer marine biologists Ray So, Hellen Fong arrived on scene and immediately performed rescue protocols untangling the whale shark from the net, bringing it to a comfortable position to reduce stress and recording its statistics for future sighting references.

As to BRUMM approved protocols, the shark was moved to deeper water to reduce its stress and allow more water to flow through its gills to breath, measured, inspected for presence of wounds or parasites and the sex was assessed, Dr Ponzo, a veterinarian reports. 

The whale shark, which has the potential to grow into the world’s biggest fish, measured 4.2 meters, was later assessed for its probability to swim out to sea and survive while some photos were taken to help identify and recognize the animal in the future. The animal was later released.

Subsequent survey and monitoring, a team of researchers located an animal just after lunch, feeding in the current less than three kilometers off Cantagay, confirming the rescue success.

A pilot whale straying on the other side of Bohol was not that lucky.

On the afternoon of the same day, a 4.5 meter pilot whale was butchered in Barangay sagasa, Bien Unido town.

Marine animal rescue volunteers and police officers chanced upon the mammal with its tail and fins already removed, too late for them to intervene and save the distressed animal.

In fact, reports said the community has partaken of the whale meat, a rather risky practice when it comes to eating migratory animals which might have strayed into mercury polluted waters.

Eating marine mammals is very dangerous for the high content of mercury that accumulates in these animals, which can cause serious illness and neuronal disorders, including blindness and deafness in newborn babies of mothers who consume their meat, explained Dr. Ponzo at a Kapihan sa PIA.

Marine Mammals like whales and dolphins are protected by law in the Philippines.

Fisheries Administrative Orders 185 and FAO 193 and the R.A. 1947, forbids harassing, killing or even possessing any marine mammals (dolphins, whales and dugong), whale shark and manta ray, or any part of the animal, dead or alive.

The law puts up a fine of up to P 100,000 and up to 12 years of imprisonment to anyone caught for the offenses stated.

While the two events show the richness of the Bohol Sea waters which has become a good feeding and possibly breeding sites for cetaceans and large marine wildlife, there is admittedly so much to do to engage communities in sustaining and conserving these treasures.

Any case of marine mammals or shark stranding and needing rescue, contact BRUMM members through your MAO or LGU or call (038) 501-9912. (Rey Anthony Chiu)

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