‘TOOTHLESS’ GOES TO DISCOVERY CHANNEL:
The extremely rare Megamouth Shark (Megachasma pelagios) #66 found in Marigondon, Pioduran Albay will finally be examined by a pool of veterinarian experts to be led by Dr. Aa Yaptinchay of the NGO Marine Wildlife Watch of the Phillipines together with Dr. Alessandro Ponzo, an Italian veterinarian and researcher of the Large Marine Vertebrate (LAMAVE) Project, GMA 7’s Born to be Wild host veterinarian Dr. Ferds Reccio, Dr. Evelyn Saberon of BFAR 5 and the Albay Province experienced veterinarians on February 11, 2015 in Albay Parks and Wildlife Center, Legaspi City. The necropsy will give us the information of how the animal died and will provide evidence of direct human impact on these marine animals in the wild. The necropsy is also an opportunity to collect tissue samples, photographs, pathogens and morphometrics needed for scientific purposes. The University of Louvain in Belgium, LAMAVE Project and other international research organizations are requesting samples for their on-going research on these Megamouth Sharks.
The journey of ‘Toothless’, as we named it, from Catandulan Point near Donsol, where it was accidentally entangled in a net and believed to have died prior to being caught, to the Cullat, Daraga Ice Plant and temporarily kept fresh then to the PFDA’s Camaligan Fishport Complex to be kept in cryogenic state and now in Albay Parks and Wildlife Center for the necropsy procedures has given us time to think of the state of the Bicol Waters. Considering that we have these planktivorous megafauna along with the Whale Sharks (Rhincodon typus) and Manta Rays (Manta spp.) especially in Burias-Ticao Pass makes us conclude that the fishing ground is very important in the biological diversity of the region.
Burias-Ticao Pass is considered a very productive fishing ground and home to a rich assemblage of some important apex species like sharks, rays, dolphins and whales but ironically is heavily exploited and an identified area of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUUF) not to mention the old practice of butchering and eating protected fish species by the local folks. With these threats, BFAR Regional Director Dennis V. del Socorro is determined in curbing illegal fishing practices in the Bicol waters. He added the need to enforce stricter fishery laws and regulations thru regular sea patrolling, monitoring, control and surveillance. “As Chairperson of the Sub-Committee on Fishing and Marine Environment Protection of the RLECC, along with other 20-member national government agencies, we are determined to enhance our strategies to address these challenges. The BFAR Central Office thru our National Director Atty. Asis G. Perez prioritizes stricter enforcement of fishery laws by allocating funds for the logistics, procurement of patrol boats and other floating assets and by continuously implementing capability-building programs for fishery law enforcers in the entire country.”
The Samahan ng mga Mangingisda ng Rehiyon at Lokal (SAMARAL), Inc., the regional alliance of fisherfolk organizations of the Bicol Region will also be making steps on how the fisherfolk sector can help the government in this campaign. This strong government-private sector partnership together with the FARMCs could hopefully help address these fisheries issues.
The Provincial Government of Albay thru the strong leadership of Governor Joey S. Salceda plans to display the remains of ‘Toothless’ in a specialized aquarium inside the Albay Parks and Wildlife Center to help convey to the public the importance of these species in the marine ecosystem and as a proof of how diverse our fisheries resources in the entire region are.
Further, the Discovery Channel will be filming the entire necropsy process. This is a good avenue for information dissemination on the protection and conservation of these megafauna not only to the Philippines but also in the entire world. The necropsy of ‘Toothless’ is pivotal for the scientific community worldwide especially in terms of shark management, conservation and protection, and – probably could help us understand and uncover some of the Megamouth Shark’s mysteries.
NONIE P. ENOLVA
Chief, Marine Fisheries Resource Management Section/Regional Information Officer
Team Leader, BFAR 5- Fisheries Regional Emergency Stranding Response Team