Foreign objects were found in the digestive system of the juvenile Sperm Whale.
Photo: Dean Ortiz

Philippines: Plastics kill marine life, BFAR warns
By Juliet C. Revita, 3rd January 2017;

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Davao has again reminded the public to refrain from throwing their waste in the water as it causes serious risks on marine mammals and aquatic ecosystem.

BFAR-Davao Regional Director Fatma Idris warned the people residing in coastal areas to dispose their garbage properly and observe solid waste management to avoid causing harm on marine species.

Just before the holidays, a 38-foot juvenile Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) beached and died at the Island Garden City of Samal. Its innards showed plastic garbage, which could’ve caused its death as it could not digest nor excrete such substances.

In the necropsy report, Idris said found inside the Whale’s stomach were cellophane bags, fish nets and hooks, a piece of coconut lumber with nail, pieces of ropes, cut pieces of steel wires, and many other plastic debris.

“That causes distress or discomfort doon sa (to the) Whale hanggang sa siya ay napadpad doon po sa coastline ng Babak at doon siya namatay (until it reached the coastline of Babak and died there),” Idris said.

The BFAR encourages mangrove planting that would help in filtering the waste in the sea and prevent the waste from going through the sea that might put the other marine resource at risk.

The bureau also discourages community from throwing their waste in the water as it can be absorb by the marine mammals.

“At the same time ’yong paglilinis ng mga community. We should be responsible enough from throwing plastics or any form sa dagat,” Idris said.

Idris added under Republic Act 9003, or the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, littering is an offense.

The violators can be fined from P300 to P1,000. They would also be asked to render community service and be required to pay a fine or both.

She also emphasized that it’s the Department of Interior Local Government who is the lead agency in implementing this while BFAR, Philippine Coast Guard and maritime groups are only the partner agencies.

The body of the Whale was already buried and will be excavated after a year to extract its bones, which will be displayed at Island Garden of City of Samal (Igacos) museum.

It’s not just marine mammals that can die from plastic garbage. In several occasions, necropsied marine Turtles are found with their digestive system filled with plastics.

Source: Sun.Star

Philippines: Beached Sperm Whale in Davao killed by garbage
By Timothy James Dimacali, 20th December 2016;

A Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that washed ashore in Davao del Norte last weekend was found to have died from ingesting human garbage, according to a report on GMA News To Go.

Sperm Whales are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

The 38.8-foot (11.8-meter) long creature, about the size of a transit bus, was killed by just an armload full of plastic trash that had choked up its digestive system.

The Whale was reportedly found by locals last Saturday, December 17. It was subsequently autopsied by Darrell Blatchley of the local D’ Bone Collector Museum.

The grueling 28-hour autopsy found plastic trash and fishing nets in the animal’s guts.

“(That’s) all it takes to kill a Whale,” Darrell said on his Facebook page.

“Some call them monsters of the deep. The monster is the person who killed it by being lazy and tossing their trash in the ocean,” he added.

Blatchley founded the D’ Bone Collector museum in 2012 to help raise public awareness of the need for wildlife protection and conservation.

Source: GMA News Online

Photos: D’ Bone Collector Museum

Philippines: Plastic kills sperm whale in Davao
By Rodirey Salas, 20th December 2016;

A Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found along the shores of Samal died after ingesting plastic materials, experts said Monday.

The juvenile male Sperm Whale was found dead in a coastal area in Barangay Miranda early Saturday morning.

Foreign objects, including cellophane, wires, ropes, fishnets, and hardwood, were found inside the Sperm Whale’s stomach and intestines, officials from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said.

The Sperm Whale’s bones will be preserved and displayed by the Bone Collector Museum, officials said.

Most of the Dolphins and Whales preserved by The Bone Collector Museum died due to human intervention and waste materials, Bone Collector Museum president Darrell Blatchey said.

“Only four out of 53 (Whales and Dolphins) we have recovered died due to natural causes,” he said.

Source: ABS-CBN News

Residents gather around a 38-foot juvenile Sperm Whale, which washed ashore on Samal Island in Davao del Norte over the weekend. A Bureau of Fisheries necropsy report said the Whale died from ingesting toxic materials, many of which were found in the mammal’s stomach such as plastic products, fish hooks, rope and steel wires.
Photos: Dean Ortiz

Philippines: BFAR: Plastic, steel wires killed whale in Samal
By Edith Regalado, 20th December 2016;

Garbage and toxins were found inside the stomach of a 38-foot juvenile Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) that was beached offshore in the Island Garden City of Samal over the weekend.

A backhoe had to be used to pull its carcass to the shore of Barangay Miranda, Babak district.

Based on experts’ estimate, the Whale may possibly have been seven years old or more.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said in its necropsy report that various toxic foreign contents were found inside the stomach of the distressed mammal such as plastic, fish net and hooks, a piece of hard wood with nail, rope and steel wire – all ultimately causing its premature death.

It added that the Whale’s stomach also contained fish eyes, fish bones and cartilage, different sizes of squid beaks and numerous stomach worms.

Darrell Dean Blatchley, cetacean expert and proprietor of D’ Bone Collector Museum, said the cause of death must have been internal due to the lack of evident physical injuries.

He added that the Davao Gulf is host to at least 18 of 27 species of Whales seen in the country.

Blatchley’s museum actually houses 53 of the total 58 Whale skeletons that he has preserved through the years.

“Among the 53 Whales and Dolphins recovered in the last seven years in Davao Gulf, only four died due to natural causes. The rest of them died because of plastic waste, were caught by nets or killed through dynamite fishing or were unable to feed in the sea. A majority of them died because of humans,” Blatchley said.

The dead Whale had to be deboned and transported to a sanitary landfill where its remains will be buried./p>

DNA samples were taken from the Whale and turned over to the BFAR for further study by experts, while the skeleton will be brought to a museum in Davao for cleaning and processing.

“Then it will be sent back to Samal where it will be placed in an education center so people will have a view of the kind of animals they could encounter around Samal and the Davao Gulf,” Blatchley said.

He added that it would also teach people of the need to “take care of our environment.”

The preserved remains of the Whale will be the largest on display in the country, he also said.

Source: The Philippine Star

28 hours after blade touched blubber we are done. A 38.8 ft male Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) died because of plastic. Some call them monsters of the deep. The monster is the person who killed it by being lazy and tossing their trash in the ocean.

Source: Darrell Blatchley Facebook

Here are the aerial shots of the dead Sperm Whale which was found beached off the coast of Babak District in the Island Garden City of Samal, Davao del Norte. Foreign objects were found in the digestive system of the juvenile Sperm Whale. (Dean Ortiz)
Photo: Dean Ortiz

Philippines: Dead Whale in Samal ingested wires, plastics, nets
By Ace June Rell S. Perez, 18th December 2016;

Initial necropsy report of the young Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) found in barangay Miranda, Babak District of the Island Garden City of Samal (Igacos), Davao del Norte showed the distressed mammal had various toxic foreign contents inside its stomach, causing its death last Saturday morning, December 17.

The Davao regional office Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) revealed on Sunday afternoon that one compartment of the stomach of the 38 ft. juvenile Sperm Whale had many foreign objects lodged including cellophane, fish nets and hooks, piece of hard wood with nail, pieces of ropes, cut pieces of steel wires and other pieces of plastics.

The other part of the Whale’s stomach contained fish eyes, fish bones and cartilage, different sizes of squid beaks and numerous stomach worms.

“Following the initial report, our impression is because the Whale’s stomach has those contents, those created the sperm to be distress and later succumbed to death,” Fatma Idris, BFAR-Davao regional director said in an interview with SunStar Davao.

The necropsy started past 7:00 p.m. last Saturday, December 17. Also, tissue samples of internal organs were collected for laboratory analysis.

Darrell Blatchley, owner of D’ Bone Museum in Davao City, led efforts in retrieving and handling the Whale’s body.

Blatchley’s team was still on site past 11 p.m. “to totally get rid of meat and carcasses of the Whale for retrieval of skeletal remains.”

The Local Government Unit of Samal has decided to bury the meat of the Sperm Whale in a landfill in Samal and the skeleton will be preserved for installation and display in Samal museum.

Source: Sun.Star

Beachgoers and residents gather around a beached Whale in Babak, Samal on Saturday, December 17, 2016. The Whale was alive Friday night, but died Saturday
Photo: Dean Ortiz

Philippines: Beached Whale had plastic trash, fish nets in stomach
By Yas D. Ocampo, 18th December 2016;

An initial check conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here reportedly revealed that the Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus), which was found beached in front of a resort in Babak District in the Island Garden City of Samal Saturday, had large amounts of plastic trash, fishing nets, hooks and even a piece of coco lumber in its stomach.

According to BFAR Region 11 Director Fatima Idris, the debris were found inside the stomach of the 37-foot Whale as the agency conducted a necropsy Sunday. She said the Whale was a juvenile male.

Cetacean expert Darrel Blatchley had earlier suspected that the Whale could have either choked on plastic trash or was mortally wounded by propellers of vessels plying the Davao Gulf.

News of the Whale washing up the beach on a resort in Samal broke out late Saturday afternoon.

BFAR has a marine mammal stranding network which is always on the look-out for Whales that could be stranded in the Davao Gulf.

Netizens shared video clips of local officials using a backhoe to drag the carcass of the Whale to shore.

Source: Manila Bulletin

Coastal Horseshoe Crab (Tachypleus gigas)

Tanah Merah, 11th April 2016

This Coastal Horseshoe Crab had been entangled and killed in a discarded fishing net.

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 http://pmmsn.org.

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

This beautiful adult female Green Sea Turtle (Chelonia mydas) will no longer be a part in her species’ survival. She died yesterday due to compacted intestines full of plastic bags. Congratulations humans, killing without even trying.

Source: Darrell Blatchley Facebook

This adult female Green Turtle died last 21 October in Davao due to compacted intestines full of plastic bags.

Source: Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Facebook