SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, Philippines – A rarely seen whale shark or butanding was spotted near the pier at Subic Bay’s Boton Wharf yesterday in what was erroneously reported as a stranding.
Amethya Koval, head of the Ecology Center of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), said the five-meter whale shark was not stranded and could just be feeding in the bay.
“This is the season when whales feed within Subic Bay,” Koval pointed out.
“It appears that the animal was looking for a way to deeper water, and it looked like it was in good condition,” Koval told The STAR.
According to Koval, the whale shark was first seen last Thursday and later appeared in various areas near the beach. It was last seen yesterday morning.
Koval said that personnel from the SBMA Harbor Patrol had tried to guide the whale out of shallow waters at the Boton Wharf, but the animal kept coming back to the pier.
Quoting a report from the Subic Freeport environmental group Wildlife in Need (WIN), Koval added that the whale shark has several nicks and scratch marks on its dorsal and caudal fin tips.
“But there were no cuts on its skin, as previously reported,” Koval said.
She added that Aeroflite, a flight school based in this Freeport, has volunteered to undertake aerial monitoring of the whale shark in the bay.
Meanwhile, local environment workers said that it was not the first time that a whale shark was spotted in Subic Bay, formerly the home port of the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
According to Rossel Abuyo, who works with fisherfolk in the area, local fishermen told stories of how they spotted whale sharks in Subic Bay when it was still under the US Navy.
“The last time they spotted a big whale shark here, the animal broke the propeller of a small fishing boat,” Abuyo recounted.
She added that in the 10 years that she has stayed in the area, she had already seen two butandings in the bay.
Koval said that as Subic authorities monitor the whale shark, the SBMA Ecology Center has taken measures to minimize “stressors” in the area that could put the animal in distress.
These stressors include unauthorized divers, vehicles, visitors, and even the media, she added.
Source: The Philippine Star (Bebot Sison Jr.)