Around 14 whale sharks (Rhincodon typus), or “butanding,” were spotted feeding off near Sarangani Bay since the previous month, having local and environment officials to plea to coastal communities to guard the sea creatures.
DENR regional director Nilo Tamoria, in Soccsksargen (South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos) said some of the whale sharks were lately found feeding in the seawaters off Barangay Silway during rounds in late February.
Task Force Butanding-GenSan stated this made the Philippines the second country with the greatest amount of whale sharks after Mexico, from a report of Wildbook for Whale Sharks, an online library that offers a visual database of whale sharks encounters around the globe.
“[We need to ensure] that these whale sharks should be protected while they are still in our area … There is a possibility that they will be harmed if we will not act soon,” the DENR regional director told in a statement.
Tamoria said the task force is composed of various government agencies, had marked the whale sharks spotted feeding on surface waters.
Sarangani Gov. Steve Solon directed the province’s Environmental Conservation and Protection Center (ECPC) to conduct research to increase efforts to conserve and protect the whale sharks.
Whale shark sightings had been chronicled in Sarangani as early as 2006. Back in 2014, the DENR recognized two whale sharks off the waters of this city.
According to the task force, the migratory whale sharks may have been drawn in to Sarangani Bay due to the plentiness of a specie of sardine, locally known as “lupuy.”
Roy Mejorada, ECPC chief, stated the team had been conducting daily rounds as well as to document their behavior, “We want to understand why they are here so we can contribute to the scientific information on their biology,”.
Mejorada added data gathered would help the local government come up with ordinances for protection of whale sharks within the 211,913-hectare Sarangani Bay.
The Philippines, which has a whale shark population of at least 1,600, displaced Australia as the country with the second largest known population of whale sharks in the world, according to reports.