On February 15th divers from Acacia Dive Resort, Mabini, found a 5.5 m badly mutilated but still alive whale shark floating belly-up amidst the rough waters off Bahay Kambin, Tingloy, Southern Philippines. Both dorsal fins and both pectoral fins had been cut off and there were numerous gashes around its tail fin indicating that an attempt had been made to cut its tail off as well.
The shark was towed to calmer waters in nearby Caban Cove, where efforts were made to support the shark on a net strung between a bamboo frame, to stop it from rolling over onto its back; however, the shark was very weak and it died that night as a result of its injuries.
For several days fishing boats equipped with powerful flood lights - reportedly from Lemery, Batangas - had been operating in Mabini waters, but had left after police moved them on after complaints from local resorts. Several nights later the fishermen returned, this time in the adjacent municipality of Tingloy. This time they were not moved on the area was under Tingloy’s jurisdiction not Mabini’s. The fishing went on until concerned divers informed Mabini of the grisly discovery.
Filipinos hunted whale sharks for decades in the waters off Bohol, Misamis Oriental and Sorsogon. Shark fins and meat were exported to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. But declining numbers and a cooperative campaign saw an end to the killing with legal protection for the species in the Philippines in1998.
The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Malcolm Sarmiento said a full investigation will be conducted to find and prosecute the culprits. Sarmiento has committed BFAR’s support until a better enforcement strategy can be developed between the twin towns of Mabini and Tingloy.
WWF-Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), have also announce a reward of P100,000 to any person who provides information leading to the identification and arrest of the parties involved in the mutilation and de-finning of the Tingloy whale shark.
This tragic incident was all the more poignant as it came right after the conclusion of the Sharks III meeting held in Manila from 8 to 12 February, which was the third meeting to develop a global agreement on the conservation and management of Migratory Sharks under the Convention on Migratory Species….. more on this in a coming post.
Our thanks to WWF Philippines for the information used in this report