Whale sharks spotted in marine reserve

SCREENSHOT of the video taken by RB Flores Bitala showing the whale shark spotted in TINMR in Guimaras.

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)–Provincial ENR Office in Guimaras reported whale shark (butanding) sightings at Taklong Island National Marine Reserve (TINMR) in Nueva Valencia town.

RB Flores Bitala took a video of a young whale shark slowly approaching their fishing boat morning of April 30, 2019.

Bitala said that whale sharks have been swimming in TINMR since March. He also added that dolphins were also seen around the area.

Rhett Arthur Diana, OIC-Protected Area Superintendent (PASu) of TINMR, said that the presence of whale sharks, dolphins, and sea turtles indicates that the coastal and marine ecosystem of an area is healthy and free from any disturbances.

Moreover, Diana presumed that the presence of whale sharks at TINMR may be because of the abundant krill and small fish, which they feed on.

In response to the sightings of whale shark in the protected area, PENR Officer Vicente Sardina directed the PENRO Technical Staff assigned in the area to ensure the protection of these endangered marine species.

Whale shark (Rhincodon typus or locally known as Butanding) is the largest living shark and largest living fish in the world, reaching lengths of 40 feet or more and could weigh up to 60 tons.

In spite of its size, this giant is a filter feeder which preys on very small animals and do not harm humans.

Sadly, these “Gentle Giants” are classified ‘endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species.

“There is a need for us to strengthen our conservation and protection efforts in TINMR. It is a marine protected area with rich food for mammals such as whale sharks and dolphins, which can serve as additional tourist attraction but one that needs strict regulation,” said DENR-6 Regional Executive Director Francisco E. Milla, Jr.

Recently, the DENR-6 led the release of five marine turtles in Boracay Island and in Tigbuan, Iloilo. Such releases and additional sightings of mammals such as whale sharks and dolphins in different coastal areas in the region calls for stricter protection for these precious animals. This is also to avoid poachers from harming them. (DENR-6)