‘Butanding’ back in Quezon waters after 20 yrs
LUCENA CITY, Philippines—Whale sharks, the world’s largest fish and one of the country’s top tourist drawers, are back in the waters of Quezon province after more than 20 years.
Mayors of coastal municipalities, particularly in the Lamon Bay area in the fourth district, reported the presence of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), locally known as “butanding,” while attending the Provincial Peace and Order Council meeting here recently.
Volunteers of Bantay Dagat (sea patrol) in Lucena City and other southern towns as far as the Bondoc Peninsula also reported sightings of the whale sharks in Tayabas Bay.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies whale sharks as “vulnerable” to extinction.
Although the Philippines’ Republic Act No. 8550 and Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 give legal protection to the fish species, records showed that whale sharks disappeared from Lamon Bay in the 1980s, as fishermen slaughtered them for meat.
Blast fishing and other irresponsible fishing methods also drove the sea creatures out of Quezon’s seas.
In 2012, a whale shark was found dead by fishermen in Lamon Bay off Mauban town. It was reportedly hit by a commercial fishing boat, which is banned in the bay.
Gov. David Suarez said law enforcers, local officials and fishermen should protect the growing number of butanding in the Lamon and Tayabas bays, and in Ragay Gulf.
“The butanding could become the next tourist attraction in Quezon,” he said.
“The fishermen themselves should be at the forefront of protecting the butanding because they will benefit from the presence of the sea creatures,” he said.
Fishermen can earn extra as guides for whale shark sightseeing tours, Suarez said.
Suarez asked the provincial government’s environment and natural resources, and tourism offices to identify the habitats of the whale sharks so plans could be drawn up for their protection.
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