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14 whale sharks sighted in Sarangani Bay

TOURISM • 21:15 PM Mon Mar 11, 2019
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Rowanne H. Sumagpao/Edwin O. Fernandez
A member of Task Force Butanding GenSan swims near a whale shark in Sarangani Bay in this aerial photo taken on March 9, 2019. (Photo by DENR-12)

GEN. SANTOS CITY – A total of 14 whale sharks locally known as “Butanding” were sighted by environmentalists in Sarangani Bay over the weekend.

The whale shark (Rhincodon typus) is a slow-moving, filter-feeding carpet shark and the largest known extant fish species. The largest confirmed individual had a length of 12.65 meters and a weight of about 21.5 tons, according to Wikipedia.

In a statement, the “Task Force Butanding GenSan,” said the sightings made the Philippines the second country in the world with most number of sighted whale sharks, quoting a report from Wildbook for Whale Sharks, a global online library that provides a visual database of whale sharks encounters around the world.

Nilo B. Tamoria, Department of Environment and Natural Resoruces (DENR-12) regional executive director, said in a separate statement that the whale sharks were spotted surface feeding in the waters adjacent to Silway, General Santos City on Saturday morning.

Another one was sighted and documented through tagging in Kiamba, Sarangani, also on Saturday.

Tamoria said two whale sharks were also documented by DENR and Gen. Santos City environment office in 2014 off Sarangani Bay, making it 16 total whale sharks monitored in the bay.

The documentation was forwarded to Large Marine Vertebrates (LAMAVE) Research Institute for individual identification.

These whale sharks were tagged as follows P1597, P1598, P1599, P1601, P1603, P1604, P1606, P1607, P1608, P1609, P1614, P1615, P1616 and one in Kiamba, Sarangani (P1605).

In a recent article from LAMAVE Research Institute, Australia was once recognized as the second largest known population on the database, while Mexico remains the number one global hotspot.

Tamoria said the Philippines’ progression to the number two spot, highlights the global significance of the archipelago for this endangered species, and emphasizes the country as a conservation leader for the species in South East Asia.

According to LAMAVE, being recognized as the second most significant whale shark population in the world is something to be celebrated on.

LAMAVE hopes that the Philippines will continue to lead in conservation efforts to protect the Butanding.

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