Sunday, 11 March 2012

Butanding sightings in CamNorte under study

       A butanding like this was seen offshore of Mercedes, Camarines Norte. - Photo 
       courtesy of Chiara Cui/

PILI, Camarines Sur: A steady stream of reported sightings of whale sharks or butanding spurred the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) to launch a couple of visits and continuous monitoring of the waters surrounding the Mercedes group of islands in Camarines Norte.  

 Nonie Enolva, head of Fisheries Regional Emergency Stranding Response Team (BFAR5 FIRST), confirmed that the main objective of their visit to Cariñgo Island, one of the islands in Mercedes, in August of last year was to observe the waters of San Miguel Bay and Pacific Ocean’s eastern seaboard that surround the area following reports of sightings of the gentle sea giant that are regular visitors of Donsol, Sorsogon which, as a consequence, earned the title as the whale shark capital of Bicol.  

Enolva admitted that their visit produced no proof of the visits of the butanding because the weather was not favorable enough for the sea animals which prefer cool wind and water temperatures.

She added that representatives from WWF also visited and observed no sightings because a typhoon was raging during their stay.

“In order to validate these sightings, we need more reports from residents too,” Enolva said.  “We will launch another visit if we receive more reports.  We have already solicited the help of local fishermen to report any sighting and, of course, advised them to treat the sea giants gently.”

Despite the fact that this is the first time that local residents observed the presence of whale sharks in the area, Enolva said that it is not unusual for the butanding to stray away from Sorsogon because the animal naturally lingers in temperate waters in countries near the equator like the Philippines.

She also explained that this may be due to the increase in population of phyto-plankton around the Mercedes group of islands which is an indirect result of climate change or global warming that causes water temperatures to increase, making it more hospitable to the microscopic animals that form part of butanding’s diet.

“The whale sharks might have visited there because of the food.  Their natural movement and behavior are driven by climate and food,” Enolva said.

She clarified that whale shark sightings do not, however, prove that the animals breed and stay in Camarines Norte as long as they do in Donsol, Sorsogon.

She explained that the WWF would still have to chart the frequency of whale shark visits every year and verify whether there is a population of the animals that regularly go there before any recommendation could be made to declare Camarines Norte as another butanding tourist spot.

Enolva explained that there is no existing study that can prove whether climate change has effects on the physical constitution and behavioral patterns of whale sharks despite sudden appearances and strandings of butanding sin Pasacao, Sabang and other parts of Camarines Sur and Albay and other parts of the country. – Bicol Mail   

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