Frequent whale shark strandings in San Miguel Bay alarm experts

San Miguel Bay

CALABANGA, Camarines Sur (Mar 26 2012) - Experts from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are alarmed at the frequent beaching of whale sharks in San Miguel Bay.

Last Tuesday (March 20), personnel of the BAFR caused a dead whale shark to be buried immediately after documentation to prevent local residents from chopping it into meat for food in the shore of Sitio Maligaya in Barangay Sabang in this coastal town.

Village officials of Barangay Sabang said that the whale shark was already dead when found floating by local fishermen, Roy Reganit, and his brothers.

Reganit claimed they pulled the whale’s body to the shore and prevented local residents from cutting it into chunks of meat for food.

Fishery experts who came to investigate measured the whale shark at 4.6-meters and about 1.2-meters in width.

No wounds were noted on the whale's body, but residents still speculated that the it could have died from collision with a big sea vehicle at San Miguel Bay.

In 2011, a bigger whale shark got stranded in the shores of San Miguel Bay in this locality and eventually died after local residents failed to pull the huge creature back to sea.

Whale sharks are reported to have frequented the bay between the coastlines of barangay Punta Tarawal and Balongay and face the danger of being stranded at the shallow entrance of the Bicol River.

Experts say whale sharks come to San Miguel Bay following their pulses for food sources and feed on krill and plankton (“dilis” and “Alamang”) that are abundant in the bay during the first quarter of the year.

In the period from February to April 2011 BFAR regional office recorded 7 cases of whale shark beaching - 3 in Albay, 3 in Camarines Sur and 1 in Sorsogon. Four were successfully rescued and 3 were already dead when found.

Since 2010, unusual sightings of whale sharks were reported from Sto. Domingo to Marigondon and Basicao in Pioduran, all coastlines in Albay; Puro, Legazpi City and in San Miguel Bay in Camarines Sur.

The whales sharks, known by their scientific name as “Rhincodon Typus,” belong to species protected under Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 and the Fisheries Administrative Order no. 193.

Donsol, Sorsogon - the whale shark’s traditional feeding ground in Bicol - has been a famous tourist destination since the late 1990s, generating tourism employment to hundreds of former fisherfolks.

While whale sharks have very few known natural predators, they may die from collision with big sea vessels and are in danger from modern fishing gadgets and illegal fishing practices. (SONNY SALES)