Missing whale shark safe, say experts
“BERTO,” a whale shark that went missing after being speared on the back in the shores of barangay Tan-awan, Oslob town, is safe and sound, scuba divers said yesterday.
Gary Cases of the Philippine Commission on Sports Scuba Diving (PCSSD) said they found him yesterday morning along Oslob’s coastal area away from the site that other whale sharks frequent.
“We found Berto but he is still weak. But he already recovered from his wounds,” Cases said.
Berto, who carried a spear wound in his back for the past weeks did not show up on the feeding site in barangay Tan-awan, Oslob, since Saturday.
This alarmed the local fisherfolk who regularly feed them with baby shrimps or uyap.
The regular feeding prompted a few of the whale sharks to stay in the area, which caught the interest of tourists.
After being speared by whale shark hunters in neighboring towns, Cases said Berto now avoids the spot.
“He avoids the people out of fear. But their immune system is very good so they can heal on their own,” he said.
Cases said they are unsure if Berto would still interact with the visitors and the local fisherfolk.
PCSSD rep Rudy Balbuena said they are still investigating the incident.
He said they will also start the reef assessment along Oslob to determine the health status of the whale sharks and other marine species present in the area.
“Hopefully the whale sharks will resume interacting with people. People are trying to instill human emotions to animals who live on instincts,” Balbuena said.
Ocean Care marine biologist Mario Marababol said the accident that saw another whale shark named “Lucas” injured by a propeller of a big motor boat occurred due to lack of regulations.
“It is so unfortunate in Oslob because the publicity came first before the regulations were set out,” Marababol said.
He said it’s important for local stakeholders to be identified and livelihood projects put in place.
“We still have to conduct the study on the effect of manual feeding so we will know what to do and provide the appropriate response,” Marababol said. Reporter Candeze R. Mongaya
Subscribe to our daily newsletter
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.