More help for the Whale Sharks

THE migratory paths of whale sharks should be cleared of structures to avoid accidents, an environmental lawyer said.

“They (fish pen owners) should remove those structures that obstruct migratory paths of whale sharks as these are not only harmful to the species that are highly migratory but also violate the Fisheries Code,” said lawyer Rose-Liza Eisma-Osorio, Coastal Conservation Education and Foundation executive director.

Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Assistant 7 Director Allan Poquita said the fish pens would be considered illegal structures if the owners do not have a permit from the local government unit.

But Toledo City Agriculturist Lucille Tumarong said Eddie Bubuli, owner of the fish pen where a whale shark was trapped last Monday, has a license for his fish pen.

Tumarong told Sun.Star Cebu that Bubuli has followed the city’s rules for putting up fish pens.

She said Bubuli is a member of the farmers and fishermen’s association and has always followed the Toledo’s rules when it comes to marine protection.

Migration route

Toledo City is one of 41 towns and cities that form the coastline around the Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS), a major migration route for marine species including dolphins and whale sharks.

The TSPS was declared a protected area by then President Fidel Ramos in 1998.

An environmental case is pending before the Supreme Court aimed at protecting the strait and its marine life. Environmental lawyers Osorio, Benjamin Cabrido and Gloria Estenzo-Ramos, among others, filed the case.

Last Monday afternoon, the 20-foot whale shark was trapped in the fish pen of Bubuli at Sitio Looc II, Bato. It was released the next day.

Toledo Mayor Rudy Espinosa said it was hard to take the whale shark out of the pen because of its size and weight.

The whale shark was released to the open see around 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Osorio told Sun.Star Cebu that cases of whale sharks getting stranded could mean there has been a change in the behavioral patterns of the marine species.

“I think these things are occurring more frequently these days and the reasons for these should be studied closely,” she said.

“Are these due to changes in the environment? We should react to these situations to save the species,” she said.

The whale sharks (Rhyncodon typus) are described by researchers as the biggest living fish in the world.

Ramos, meanwhile, called for the activation of the Protected Area Management Board of the TSPS.

She said the formulation of a management plan with the participation of stakeholders is long overdue.

 Bernadette A. Parco and Flornisa M. Gitgano of Sun.Star Cebu.



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