‘Leave whale sharks alone’
ALABEL, Sarangani — An appeal to leave whale sharks unharmed was made by the provincial government as experts confirmed the province’s bay now has the country’s second biggest whale shark population.
Authorities were also checking if whale shark migration was increasing following the sighting of up to four more whale sharks on Thursday, which could be new migrants or part of the pod that was seen on March 10 in Sarangani Bay.
Experts from the Sarangani Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC) confirmed reports by local fishermen about the sighting of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) off the coast of Ladol village here.
ECPC officials, led by veterinarian Roy Mejorada, filmed at least three more whale sharks, or “butanding,” near seaside fish cages at Ladol, a community of mostly fishermen.
Mejorada told reporters that the four whale sharks were sighted on Thursday by fishermen.
He said whale sharks were “highly migratory” and stay in areas where they could feed on small fishes locally known as “lupuy.”
Officials of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in the region said the sighting of at least 14 whale sharks on March 10 in Sarangani Bay made the province host of the second largest population of whale sharks in the country.
If sightings after March 10 were confirmed to be those of new whale sharks, the number of butanding in the bay would reach up to 22.
Aside from Sarangani Bay, three other sites were known to host whale sharks — Oslob, Cebu; Donsol, Sorsogon; Pintuyan, Southern Leyte, and Honda Bay, Palawan.
Mejorada said data on whale sharks seen in Sarangani Bay had been sent to Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines for validation.
Following the sightings of butanding in Sarangani Bay, Gov. Steve Chiongbian appealed to all residents of the province not to harm the gentle marine giants.
The governor, in a statement, also asked fishermen to immediately alert his office about new sightings of whale sharks and other endangered species.
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