DENR pushes for protection of ‘butandings’ in SarBay

Sarangani Bay and Mt. Matutum. MindaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/11 March) – The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in Region 12 is pushing for stringent measures to ensure the protection of at least 16 whale sharks or “butandings” that had been spotted in parts of the Sarangani Bay.

Nilo Tamoria, DENR-12 regional executive director, said Monday they are currently coordinating with various stakeholders for the adoption of proper conservation and protection measures for the whale sharks (Rhincodon typus).

“This is an urgent concern because we need to ascertain that these whale sharks should be protected while they are still in our area,” he said.

Tamoria, who met here on Saturday with members of the newly-activated Task Force Butanding-GenSan, said there is a need to come up with measures for the protection of the whale sharks due to the possibility that they will be harmed “if we will not act the soonest time.”

Members of the task force, which is spearheaded by the city government, conducted another observation of the whale sharks last Saturday aboard the DENR-12’s monitoring vessel.

It is composed of personnel from the City Environment and Natural Resources Office, City Tourism Council, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Department of Tourism, Philippine Coast Guard, Protected Area Management Board, Sarangani Environmental Conservation and Protection Center, DENR and the coastal barangays.

Since January, Tamoria said the task force has discovered and documented 14 new whale sharks, specifically spotted surface feeding in the waters off Purok Silway here and in Kiamba, Sarangani.

These were officially tagged as P1597, P1598, P1599, P1601, P1603, P1604, P1605, P1606, P1607, P1608, P1609, P1614, P1615 and P1616.

In 2014, two whale sharks tagged as P640 and P641 were documented off the coasts of this city, making their current total count to 16.

The latest documentation was already forwarded by the task force to Large Marine Vertebrates or LAMAVE Research Institute Philippines for individual identification.

Tamoria said the agency, in coordination with the task force, will conduct a series of information and education activities among coastal communities of the Sarangani Bay regarding the presence of the whale sharks.

He said local stakeholders should be aware of the prohibited acts as stipulated in Republic Act (RA) 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act and other related laws.

RA 9147 prohibits the maltreatment or killing of endangered species like the whale shark. Violators may face a fine of as much as P1 million and imprisonment of up to 12 years. (MindaNews)