Shark attack brings rare whale to shore
LUCENA CITY—A 500-kilogram Longman’s beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus), one of the rarest whale species, has been found dead on the shoreline of General Nakar town in Quezon province.
It was a victim of a shark attack, Jing Astejada, municipal environment and natural resources officer, said in a text message to the Inquirer on Wednesday night. He cited a necropsy report of Dr. Marco Espiritu, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources veterinarian.
Astejada said the wounds in the whale’s body were inflicted not by gun bullets but from the bites of a cookiecutter shark.
The bites of a cookiecutter shark (Isistius brasiliensis), also known as cigar shark, are fatal though its body is smaller than that of other shark species but has the largest teeth “which it uses to take round chunks out of larger marine creatures,” according to the SharkSider website.
“Their trademark bites can be seen on large fish and whales of the deep ocean,” the website said.
The Longman’s beaked whale was found with several wounds in the body in the coastal village of Catablingan in General Nakar. It had earlier been mistaken for a dolphin by local authorities, but its species was later determined by Espiritu.
A team sent by General Nakar Mayor Leovigildo Rozul to check the mammal had suspected that the wounds were caused by bullets fired by illegal fishers.
Astejada said local residents buried the whale’s remains past 12 a.m. on Sunday.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the Longman’s beaked whale is on its red list of endangered species but described its entry as “data deficient.”
“There is almost no information on abundance and no information on trends in global abundance for this species. As a relatively uncommon species, it is potentially vulnerable to low-level threats…,” the IUCN said in its website.
Many sightings of the whale species have been reported in the tropical Pacific and Indian oceans, it said. “The distribution is not fully known, but it appears to be limited to the Indo-Pacific region. The collected specimens are from Australia, Somalia, South Africa, the Maldives, Kenya, the Philippines, Taiwan and Japan.”
According to the Whale Facts website, the Longman’s beaked whale is one of the rarest among the entire cetacean species, “which is comprised of over 80 different marine mammals and is made up of all species of whale, dolphin and porpoise.”
Astejada said the stranding of the whale species in Quezon was the second reported in the Philippines and the 11th in the world.
In 2004, the Inquirer reported the first documented stranding of a young male, about 4 years old and 20.88 feet long, in Davao City. The whale was found by fishermen, who alerted local authorities.
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.