An international conservation group and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) are offering a P100,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the killers of a baby whale shark found butchered in Tingloy waters.
The Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines said the bounty would go to “any person who provides information leading to the identification and arrest of the parties involved in the mutilation and de-finning of the Tingloy whale shark.”
The 18-foot long whale shark (Rhincodon typus) was found de-finned and fighting for life last Monday in the rough waters of Bahay Kambing, a sheltered cove in Tingloy town, Batangas.
The juvenile whale shark’s twin pairs of dorsal and pectoral fins were sliced off, the WWF said in a statement. Its tail bore rope and knife marks, it said.
“Scuba divers from Mabini’s Acacia Resort first discovered the mutilated shark on the morning of 15 February,” said Casita Isabel resort owner Linda Reyes-Romualdez. “The shark was towed to nearby Caban cove, whose waters were more placid.”
“Together with a Bantay Dagat unit, volunteers splinted the shark by flanking it with bamboo poles and installing a net underneath to minimize further injuries,” she said. “We wanted to ease its pain.”
The whale shark, nicknamed Tingloy Baby, died the following day after efforts failed to save it, said Joel Gutierrez of Conservation International-Philippines.
It was buried in Cavan cove by members of the Bantay Dagat, Philippine Coast Guard and representatives from BFAR, Gutierrez said.
WWF-Philippines Conservation Programmes vice-president Joel Palma expressed outrage over the attack on the endangered animal, locally known as butanding.
“WWF condemns the perpetrators of this illegal act,” Palma said.
“This is a real eye-opener, for it proves that the slaughter of endangered species—even one as big as a butanding—can still take place if we let our guards down,” he said. “The public and private sectors must come together to refine and polish current conservation mechanisms.”
Authorities were hunting down a group of fishers reportedly from Lemery, Batangas seen in the vicinity at the time of the incident.
BFAR Director Malcolm Sarmiento said a full investigation will be conducted to find and prosecute the culprits, who could face up to four years in jail and a fine of P10,000.
The WWF said any information, including the location of the boat and whale shark fins, can be sent to mobile number 0917-883-4207.
The incident came just three days after the conclusion of the third Convention on Migratory Species for Sharks held in Manila from February 8 to 12. The talks were held to safeguard shark populations in the Indo-Pacific region.
Whale sharks are classified by the IUCN as vulnerable and are protected in the Philippines under Republic Act 8550 and Fisheries Administrative Order 193.
Filipinos have hunted whale sharks for decades and the waters off Bohol, Misamis Oriental and Sorsogon used to be the favorite fishing grounds of butanding hunters.
Shark fins and meat are usually exported to China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. Whale shark flesh, called “Tofu meat”, sells for about $8 (P360) per kilogram, while dried shark fins are valued at approximately $800 (P36,000) per kilo.
In 1997 alone, at least 200 whale sharks were slaughtered across the country, according to BFAR.
“More poachers are out there—and they will not be at rest just because we are,” Palma said.