Whalesharks of Donsol ... fast disappearing due to the rising temperature of the bay waters ...
By MAR S. ARGUELLES
DONSOL, Sorsogon: Rising sea temperature due to climate change, stress, and lack of food are the main reasons for the decreasing sightings of Butanding or whaleshark along the coastal waters of this town, a Butanding Interaction Officer (BIO) said.
Alan Amanse, Donsol BIO Board chairperson, in an interview confirmed that the rising sea temperature, stress, and insufficient plankton as the contributory factors that saw the whalesharks transfer to cooler areas, swim in deeper sea, or look for areas with abundant food.
He said because of this condition, sightings of Butanding in the coastal town considerably dropped from eight sightings last year to only two during the first half of this year, which endangers the once booming tourism industry of this town.
Amanse said temperature in the town's coastal waters rose from the ideal temperature range of 26 to 27 degrees last year to to 29 to 30 degrees this year.
Currently there are only two eight-meter long and two-meter wide whale sharks swimming off Donsol waters.
They christened the two as "Curly" the one with curly dorsal fin, and "Lucky”, with a nylon cord tied on its tail.
"Wala na yong mga malalaki measuring 14 meters long," gone were the likes of the famous "Putol" and "Nognog," Amanse said.
Another cause for the depletion, Amanse stressed was that the Butandings are suffering from stress because of the many interaction events that the BIO conducts during the Butanding Season which is held in May and December.
He said there are around 40 boats with at least six tourist visitors each on board that interact with the whale sharks in every event.
Rey Aquino, town councilor, claims that the rampant gathering of plankton by fishers folk and the presence of ecoli contamination in Donsol River brought about by the poor installation of household toilets along riverbanks contributed further to the diminishing supply or growth of food (plankton) for the giant Butandings.
Amanse said the departure of whalesharks to other areas outside Bicol meant losses of millions of pesos in tourism revenues due to poor tourist arrivals in the town and province.
Records show that tourist arrivals dropped by 2,000 during the first half of this year, or close to 10% from an average of 25,000 recorded during the same period since 2007, Amanse said.
Amabel de la Cruz, Donsol Tourism Council Revenue collector, in an interview said the town had raked in P4 million in tourism revenues last year.
She said that revenue collection for the past six months of this year amounted only to P2 million although she still hopes that collection would match last year's revenue at the end of the year.
Another environment issue that confronts Donsol is the cutting of mangrove trees in Barangay Ogud for the purpose of making it a parking area of bancas by residents.
The town, aside from being tagged as the Butanding capital of the country, has other tourist attractions like the "Firefly Watch”, in Ogod River and an 800-square kilometer fish sanctuary that span the coastal villages of Sibago, Tinanogan, and San Rafael.
Donsol is a third class municipality in Sorsogon with more than 47,000 population. - Bicol Mail