By Nanette Guadalquiver

DEAD MARINE ANIMALS. A whale shark (left) and a green sea turtle were found dead in Himamaylan City and Cauayan town, respectively, in southern Negros Occidental Wednesday night (April 17, 2024) and Thursday morning (April 18). A strengthened information campaign is being pushed for the community to help protect these sea creatures. (Photos courtesy of Himamaylan City ENRO, Councilman John Vincent Barison) 

BACOLOD CITY – A whale shark and a green sea turtle were found dead on the shoreline of two localities in southern Negros Occidental Wednesday night and Thursday morning.

In a report, the Himamaylan City Environment and Natural Resources Office (ENRO) said the whale shark, measuring about 16 feet, was first sighted in Barangay Aguisan around 2:30 a.m. Wednesday.

By 11 a.m., it was monitored returning to deep waters after the joint team from the ENRO, Philippine Coast Guard, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources and Fisheries (BFAR) and Aquatic Resources Management Council monitored its condition and facilitated its safety.

Around Wednesday midnight, the whale was reported to have died in shallow waters.

Armela Waldato, city environmental management specialist and executive director of Kabankalan-Himamaylan-Ilog Integrated Coastal Management Council, said on Thursday the joint team retrieved the carcass and buried it at the city’s sanitary landfill.

“We are disposing of it properly. We’re placing a tag on it for research purposes. The team, together with the BFAR, decided to bury it now. Later, we will check the carcass and see if it ingested plastic materials,” she told the Philippine News Agency in a telephone interview.

“We are also investigating, based on the statement of people in the area, that the whale shark was dragged while inside the net,” she added.

Waldato said sightings of whale sharks, dolphins and marine turtles are usually reported whenever “tuloy” (Indian oil sardine), “guno” (silverside) and “lukos” (cuttlefish or squid) are abundant in the area.

“We will once again conduct a massive information campaign among fisherman to let them know they need to release big fish trapped in their nets. They can report the incident to our office so that we can provide them assistance,” she said.

Whale sharks are protected nationally under Sections 67 and 107 of Republic Act (RA) 8550 or the Philippines Fisheries Code of 1998, as amended by RA 10654 and under Fisheries Administrative Order 193 Series of 1998.

Meanwhile, Waldato said they have monitored that a female green sea turtle was also found dead on the shoreline of Barangay Masaling, Cauayan town Thursday morning.

“I am coordinating with the ENRO of Cauayan about it. Marine animals can recover from stress if the weather is okay but extreme heat is also a challenge for them,” she added.

Village councilman John Vincent Barison said in an interview the marine turtle, which was 24 inches long and 22 inches wide, had wounds, but the cause of death has yet to be determined.

Coast Guard and municipal government personnel took measurements. retrieved the carcass then buried it, he added.

“We remind fishermen and divers to release sea turtles whenever they encounter them or they are trapped,” Barison said.

He noted that in Barangay Masaling, where green sea turtles had been hatching in previous years, the death of a marine turtle was also monitored last year.

Department of Environment and Natural Resources Administrative Order 2019-09 states that green sea turtles are categorized as “endangered species” or those facing a high risk of extinction due to various factors, including habitat destruction, pollution, climate change, overexploitation, and the introduction of invasive species. (PNA)