Following the recent sighting of two whale sharks in the municipal waters of this island-province, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-10 (BFAR-10) has appealed to the public on Tuesday not to disturb or harm the endangered species.
The gigantic fish, locally known as butanding, were spotted swimming near the White Island, a crescent-shaped sandbar, in Catarman town Friday.
Video footage of the sighting had been uploaded on social media by scuba divers, who happened to be at the site when the whale sharks swam by. The divers did not attempt to go near the whale sharks or made any unnecessary movements.
Teodoro Bacolod Jr., BFAR-10 assistant regional director, said the whale sharks might have been looking for food, prompting them to head to shallow waters.
Our appeal to the people is not to harm or touch them so they will not be disturbed. Just watching them is enough, he said.
Bacolod said the BFAR has repeatedly instructed and warned fisherfolk, local fisheries wardens and other volunteers not to kill whale sharks lest they will be violating Republic Act 8550, the country's Fisheries Code.
Whale sharks are considered as endangered species and killing them is illegal, he added.
The strict enforcement of fisheries law may have been the cause of the return of whale sharks in the waters of Camiguin, Gov. Jurdin Jesus Romualdo said in a separate interview on Tuesday.
Romualdo recalled that in the 1970s and 1980s whale sharks were abundant in the island, but they eventually left the island-province when fishermen captured and butchered them.
But the governor said that because of the implementation of the fisheries code, there have been no reports of illegal fishing in Camiguin.
We have been strictly enforcing the anti-illegal fishing in Camiguin, and keeping a close watch on our waters for any illegal fishers, he said.
We just let them (whale sharks) be, allowing them to be in their natural habitat. I discouraged feeding them as they will become dependent on humans for food, he added.
Whale sharks (scientific name Rhincodon typus) can grow up to 40 feet or 12 meters long and can weigh up to 18.7 metric tons are said to be the largest fish in the world.
I remember before, these whale sharks used to swim beside ferries from Camiguin to Balingoan. It was such a sight. We hope they will be back here, Romualdo said.
Source: Philippines News Agency