Photo: Friends of PMMSN – Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network Facebook

Philippines: A killed Hero
By Michael L. Tan, 26th October 2016;

Each year, dozens of marine mammals — including some 30 species of Dolphins and Whales, plus the Dugong (Dugong dugon) and the Small-clawed Otter (Aonyx cinereus) — are stranded on Philippine shores. Between 2005 and 2016, there were 692 such incidents documented by the Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network (PMMSN), which sends rescue teams and then initiates treatment and rehabilitation.

One of those stranded mammals was Hero, a male Rough-toothed Dolphin (Steno bredanensis) that was found in Calapandayan, Subic, Zambales, on April 9, 2015 (Araw ng Kagitingan or Day of Valor).

There are popular misconceptions that these stranding incidents involve animals trying to commit suicide, but the real story is that these animals strand because of human activities. To be blunt, they don’t kill themselves; they’re killed.

Human garbage

In the case of Hero and many other stranded mammals, dynamite fishing led to acoustic trauma or damage in the animals, which then adversely affected their navigational capabilities. We tend to think of our ears only for hearing, but vertebrates, including humans, depend on the inner ear for balance. Vertigo, with symptoms like dizziness, results from a problem with the inner ear — a common problem among the elderly.

Hero was treated by PMMSN members — Dr. Leo Jonathan Suarez and a team of veterinarians connected with Ocean Adventure in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone — and seemed to be recovering well. But on Nov. 8, they noticed that he was not eating and appeared to be in pain. He seemed to be retching, trying to vomit something from his gut.

Hero’s condition improved for a few days around the third week of November, but then he stopped eating again. A few days later, the vets saw him trembling, swimming erratically, and retching for about five hours, before dying. The Dolphin died on Nov. 30, Bonifacio Day.

The vets performed an autopsy and found a piece of plastic in Hero’s throat. Down the esophagus, they found nylon and more plastic, all of which had ended up into a ball that obstructed the digestive tract. Hero had choked to death on human garbage.

It was not the first time the PMMSN found such garbage in stranded marine mammals. It’s hard to estimate how many of the mammals also ingest the garbage out at sea, and how many survive, or die. Other marine mammals strand because they get entangled in fishing nets and gear. Still others strand because they are ill, sometimes because of infections, other times because of chemical toxins from humans.

I listened to the report on Hero during a PMMSN conference held earlier this month in Vigan, Ilocos Sur. I attended mainly because the PMMSN is based in UP Diliman’s Institute of Environmental Science and Meteorology, and I was asked to deliver a keynote speech and a paper as well. I decided to stay on because I was curious about PMMSN activities.

It was an eye-opener. Stranded marine mammals are an example of why we need to have more One Health efforts, linking human medicine, veterinary medicine, and, the most neglected, environmental health concerns.

Paper after paper delivered at the conference showed how our neglect of the environment affects human and nonhuman animals. On my first day in Vigan, Dr. Lem told me that he and his team were treating a stranded Whale in Pangasinan for a respiratory infection, and were using ciprofloxacin, an antibiotic. I asked how they chose their antibiotics, and he said it’s actually been a problem with some of the mammals because they’re showing resistance to some of the drugs.

I was surprised. Antibiotic resistance is a serious problem now with humans because of misuse (over-prescription, self-medication). How could this happen with marine mammals?

Dr. Lem reminded me that the ocean is one large sink for human garbage and a host of chemicals from antibiotics to pesticides, and so it is not surprising that marine mammals are put in harm’s way as well. A paper read in the conference by chemist J. L. Bondoc talked about the human “cocktail of chemicals” that gets into the sea and affects marine mammals. She showed slides of the animals’ damaged livers, which were correlated with high levels of toxic chemicals.

Vet med

My first degree was in veterinary medicine. I was trained to treat dogs and cats, cows, pigs and horses, even carabaos — all mammals — plus a few birds, mainly chickens. When I got to Vigan, the first person I was introduced to was Dr. Nestor Domenden, the director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in the Ilocos. The bureau was coordinating much of the work with the PMMSN, and had taken care of organizing logistics for the conference. It made sense that the BFAR was taking care of Dolphins and Whales.

I then met veterinarians, and more veterinarians, and then it hit me. Back in vet school — still in UP Diliman at that time — we had an informal boundary: Our college took care of mammals and our next door neighbor, the College of Fisheries, took care of, well, fish. In Vigan, I realized that vets are taking on an expanded list of potential patients — still mammals, but those found in the sea.

I’m signing up with the PMMSN and hoping to join one of its future training workshops, in part to show that senior citizens can still pick up new causes and skills. But really, this is just a continuation of my older advocacies. I’ve worked on environmental causes for many years, and in public health, so this isn’t something completely new. The vet skills will need some honing; I just had to ask them where one extracts blood from a Dolphin (answer: a vein on the caudal or tail fin).

It’s my anthropology side that is most stimulated by the PMMSN activities. I delivered a paper in Vigan talking about how humans’ ability to care for other species — even willing to risk life and limb for them — is what adds to our definitions of humanity. Caring for dogs and cats is one thing; taking another step to care about Dolphins and Whales is a bit more difficult. But it’s happening.

In scientific conferences we usually find ourselves emotionally detached, dealing mainly with graphs and statistics. But the PMMSN conference was different: The papers tugged at our hearts’ strings, for example, when slides of butchered marine mammals were presented.

It was also encouraging to hear about how government patrols in the Ilocos had decreased dynamite fishing, which seems to have led as well to a decrease in the stranding of marine mammals. I was also touched to see a marine ambulance they had built, which the PMMSN hopes to replicate for the other regions. There are volunteers now all the way to Tawi-tawi.

I intend to write more about the PMMSN in the future. Interested in helping out? Do visit

Meanwhile, think hard about our garbage and how it might kill Dolphins like Hero. It’s not just plastic bags and wrappers. The weekend after Vigan, one of my daughters wanted to buy balloons and I had to gently tell her what one of the vets had told me: The balloons don’t end up in heaven; some come back to the earth, others into the sea. I bought her a balloon anyway, and our day ended with the balloon safely inside the house.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

These two Striped Dolphins (Stenella coeruleoalba) did not survive a mass stranding event of six individuals in Malaconini, Siruma, Camarines Sur yesterday. BFAR 5-FIRST rescue team was able to release 4 animals back to the sea (2 yesterday and 2 today). They reported “death likely caused by blast fishing.”

Source: Nonus Evolvus Facebook, via Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook

Six Striped Dolphins stranded yesterday in Malaconini, Siruma, Camarines Sur. Four of them were released yesterday and today. The other two, unfortunately, died. Necropsy of the two dolphins suggests that they were victims of blast trauma (dynamite fishing)… Many thanks to BFAR 5-FIRST for their continued efforts in responding to marine mammal strandings in the Bicol region.

Source: Friends of PMMSN – Philippine Marine Mammal Stranding Network Facebook

A worker carries a Dolphin’s carcass for burial at the fish cemetery inside the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources compound in Dagupan City.
Photo: Willie Lomibao

Philippines: Trapped Dolphin dies, gets buried in Dagupan
By Gabriel Cardinoza, 2016;

A dead Bottlenose Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) was spared from being cut up to pieces and taken to a fish cemetery here instead.

The Dolphin died on Tuesday after it got caught in a fisherman’s net in the Lingayen Gulf.

The Dolphin, a female, was still alive but weak when a fisherman found it trapped in his net around 8:30 p.m., according to Bonuan Gueset village chair Ricardo Mejia.

The Dolphin was carried to shore where it died hours later.

Mejia said he took custody of the Dolphin when he learned that villagers want to butcher it. Butchering endangered animals is against the law.

Mejia said he turned over the dead Dolphin to the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center (NIFTDC) here, where it was buried in the fish cemetery.

Westly Rosario, NIFTDC chief, said the Dolphin had no signs of external injuries. But its snout was bleeding, an indication of internal injuries caused by blast fishing, Rosario said.

Earlier this month, Consuelo Perez, former Board of Investments governor, complained of unabated blast fishing in the Lingayen Gulf, which, she said, could be heard from her house in nearby San Fabian town.

This was the first reported Dolphin beaching here this year.

In January last year, at least 17 injured Bottlenose Fraser’s Dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei) were found beached in the coastal areas of the Lingayen Gulf from Alaminos City in Pangasinan to Aringay town in La Union.

Rosario said Dolphins come to the Lingayen Gulf to look for flowing water whenever they are ill. He said the West Philippine Sea is a natural marine migration path and Dolphins usually swim by the gulf in search for food.

Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

If the photo shows the Dolphin involved in this incident, and isn’t that of a different Dolphin, then it’s likely to be a Spinner Dolphin instead of a Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops sp.). Similarly, photos indicate that the mass stranding of Dolphins in 2015 involved Fraser’s Dolphins, not Bottlenose Dolphins.

Philippines: Dolphin interment
29th June 2016;

A Spinner Bottlenose Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) which perished at Tondaligan Beach last Tuesday is carried to the Fish Cemetery at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources compound on Wednesday for proper burial. The Dolphin was discovered with blood oozing from its mouth and may have been wounded due to blast fishing activities in the area. The practice of burying dead marine creatures was started in 1999 to heighten awareness on the importance of respecting, preserving and protecting marine resources.
Photo: Jojo Riñoza

Source: Manila Bulletin

Philippines: Dolphin killed by explosives off Antique

By Bea Montenegro, 1st September 2015;

A dead Dolphin was found beached in Antique, according to a report on GMA’s Unang Balita.

The Dolphin was found a few kilometers away from the seashore in the town of Tibiao. It measured seven feet long and weighed 85 kg.

Fishermen immediately brought the Dolphin to authorities for investigation into the cause of death. According to the municipal tourism operations office, the Dolphin died after being hit by explosives.

The local government then gave the Dolphin to the UP Visayas Museum of Natural Sciences.

Source: GMA News Online

Based on the footage of the Dolphin in the news segment, this appears to be a Bottlenose Dolphin (Tursiops sp.).

Philippines: Dolphin killed by explosives off Antique

A dead Green Turtle (Chelonia mydas) that seems to have been a victim of dynamite fishing was found floating in the waters between Caramoran and Palumbanes Island, Catanduanes today.

Source: Chessa Lin Atole Facebook, via Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook

Personnel from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources examine a dead Spinner Dolphin that was washed ashore in barangay Punta Engaño, Lapu-Lapu City. Photo by Norman Mendoza

Philippines: Spinner Dolphin found dead at Lapu-Lapu City shore
By Carine M. Asutilla, 14th April 2015;

A Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) was found dead on the shore of Barangay Punta Engaño in Lapu-Lapu City Monday morning.

Local fishermen found the sea animal bleeding and lifeless.

They immediately contacted Task Force Kalikasan to examine the dolphin which weighed about 40 kilos and reached five feet.

It was brought to Lapu-Lapu City Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (CFARMC) office.

City Coastal Law Enforcement Officer Andy Berame said he suspected that the dolphin had suffered internal bleeding.

“I think the dolphin was hit by fishermen using dynamite,” he said.

He observed that its head was badly injured which may have affected the dolphin’s ability to navigate, leading it to land on the shore.

Berame also noted wounds on the dolphin’s tail and stomach, possibly a result of being slammed on the rocky shore.

Dynamite fishing still occurs in Lapu-Lapu City, which Task Force Kalikasan constantly monitors in order to apprehend the illegal fishers, said Berame.

Most of the dynamite fishers operate in the seas between Bohol island and Lapu-Lapu City.

He said that a necropsy will be conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) to determine the cause of death.

Last month, a dolphin was also found dead on the shores of barangay San Vicente in Lapu-Lapu City. It had similar injuries caused by dynamite fishing.

“We will make sure that the laws against illegal fishing are implemented in Lapu-Lapu City, especially that the sea is our city’s main tourist attraction,” Berame said.

Lapu-Lapu City is known for its resorts, beaches and tourist attractions. Fishing is also a livelihood for many coastal villages.

Source: Cebu Daily News