Whale shark seen in Lingayen Gulf
LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—It’s the time of the year when the waters of northern Luzon become the playground of marine creatures rarely seen in this part of the country.
In this Pangasinan capital, a 12-foot-long butanding (whale shark) was accidentally caught in a fisherman’s net along a public beach on the morning of Maundy Thursday. The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) was released back into the sea by rescue workers after more than an hour.
In Ilocos Norte, 13 humpback whales were seen in the waters off Barangay Pasaleng in Pagudpud town between March 31 and April 2.
Rommel Cardinoza, head of the provincial health emergency response team (PHERT) in Pangasinan, said the whale shark got tangled in the net owned by Jose Sison, a fisherman from the coastal village of Maniboc here.
Sison left the net on Wednesday night and went to the beach the following morning to pull it back when he noticed that it was heavy.
He then asked for help from other fishermen and they were surprised to see the whale shark in the net.
Cardinoza said Sison reported what he caught to the visitors’ assistance groups, who were at the beach at that time. The PHERT, along with Lingayen policemen, Philippine Coast Guard personnel and the water and rescue team of the provincial government, was there to ensure the safety of beachgoers during Holy Week.
“We had a hard time pushing the butanding back into the sea. It appeared healthy. Maybe it tried to eat the fish caught in the net,” he said.
Fishermen had reported sightings of three whale sharks in the Lingayen Gulf since 2010.
In Ilocos Norte, the provincial government reported that 10 humpback whales were seen by residents in Pasaleng Bay in Pagudpud on March 31, while another three were seen there on April 2.
Humpback whales (Megaptera novaeangliae) normally turn up in Pasaleng’s waters in March and April, according to reports from the provincial government’s media bureau.
The provincial government recently invited Dr. Lemnuel Aragones of the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology to brief local officials on the whale sightings.
Quoting Aragones, a statement from the provincial government said Ilocos Norte’s waters serve as a haven for endangered marine species which migrate to the warmer waters of the Philippines.
With the sightings of these whales in Pagudpud, Aragones said local officials should draw up measures to protect the marine mammals against the influx of tourists who are eager to see them.
He said Pagudpud officials should designate a hilltop station that would serve as a whale-watching site for tourists. He said the town could also arrange whale-watching trips using binoculars so the marine mammals would not be harmed or disturbed.
Aragones said residents should be involved in these activities. “Of course, you wouldn’t want the people in the place to feel like they have lost their sense of ownership. Give them tasks linked to [these activities],” he said.
Ian Ree Raquel, provincial tourism officer, said the government was ready to partner and support such initiative, noting that the presence of humpback whales in Pagudpud could help boost Ilocos Norte’s tourism industry. Gabriel Cardinoza and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon