Trapped ‘butanding’ freed in Albay town

“The butanding is the father of the fishes…” This is what William Sibuyo, owner of the fish corral or baklad where the whale shark has been trapped said during an interview with GMA’s Born to be Wild host, Dr. Ferds Reccio on Feb. 14, 2011 when the gentle giant was safely released back to the open ocean in the coastal barangay of Tinapian, Manito, Albay.

The whale shark, Rhincodontypus, is a male, approximately four meters in length and weighing five metric tons has been trapped for a week before finally released by the joint efforts of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources – Bicol thru its Fisheries Regional Emergency Stranding Response Team (BFAR-5 FIRST), World Wildlife Fund, Inc., and the provincial government of Albay.

“Where the father is, the siblings are there”, Sibuyo added. A belief some local folks cling to. He perceived that the whale shark has been helpful for their bountiful harvest believing that the  fish has been luring fishes towards his baklad.  He cited that the whale sharks come in and out of his baklad but he and his colleague do not harm the gentle fish once inside.

The rescue team believed that the harvest or gathering of fishes caught in baklad may have put the whale shark on great stress and eventually lost its appetite due to confinement in a small area.

BFAR-5 FIRST’s initial attempt to release the whale shark on Feb. 9 was unsuccessful due to the resistance of the owner to free the whale shark as it was perceived to bring bountiful harvest of fishes.

The team left the area and planned for a possible suit in violation of Fisheries Administrative Order No. 193 or “Banning the taking or catching, selling, purchasing and possessing, transporting and exporting of Whale Sharks and Manta Rays” and in pursuance of Sections 65 and 107 of the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998.

With the prepared lawsuit at hand, the team proceeded to the area and planned for the release of the butanding.  The owner no longer resisted the team’s objective to release the whale shark.  The team conducted photo-identification to add the information to the Eco-Ocean’s non-invasive research of identifying individual whale sharks throughout the world.

The stranding was the second incident this February following the dead whale shark found in Maslog, Legaspi City, only few kilometers away from the area.  The Maslog whale shark is a male with 4.35 meters length and perceived to be of the same age and sibling of the Manito whale shark.

Accordingly, Dave David of World Wide Fund for Nature Inc., (WWF) has cited that in 2010, photo-identification initiatives has recorded a total 348 whale shark individuals throughout the country.  This whale shark was the 350th individual recorded in the Philippines, thus, coded P350.  The code “P” stands for our country followed by the number.

BFAR-Bicol, through the leadership of Regional Director Dennis del Socorro actively responds to any whale shark, marine mammal and manta ray stranding incidents in the Bicol Peninsula.

Del Socorro added that whale sharks, marine mammals such as whales and dolphins, along with manta rays are considered flagship marine species that needs protection and conservation.  A concerted effort with the Local Government Units, other allied agencies and private sector are vital in this endeavor.

By rescuing a stranded whale shark, marine mammal or manta ray, you have helped an animal in need.  You have also helped fellow Bicolanos realize how important it is to protect these animals and the environment they live in. These endangered species are protected by law as stipulated in the Philippine Fisheries Code (RA 8550), the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act (RA 9147), the Animal Welfare Act (RA 8485), Administrative Order No. 282, and other international laws being embraced by the Philippine Government.

BFAR urged the public to report incidents of  stranded whale shark, marine mammal or manta ray to  BFAR5-FIRST through telephone numbers(054) 361-2326 / 477-7365 or mobile hotline no. 09194970286. -n.enolva


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