Whale sharks are local fishermen’s best friend

Contrary to what Dumanjug mayor Nelson Garcia said during the recently held Tañon Strait forum, whale sharks and dolphins are not pests but in fact, they are the fisherfolk community’s best friends. They help ensure that local fishermen continue to have a bountiful catch by making Tañon Strait and the marine ecosystem healthy, enabling more fish and species of marine wildlife to thrive.

Whale sharks feed mainly on plankton, krill, and macroalgae among others. In being filter feeders, they contribute in cleaning Tañon Strait of pollutants. By feeding on algae, these whale sharks perform a great role in combating red tide and preventing these macroalgae to overrun corals that would eventually kill fish and marine ecosystems.

Killing these whale sharks won’t contribute much to the objective of a bountiful catch. With their absence, fishermen will eventually have fewer fish to catch in the long run. In fact, even the tourism program of attracting whale sharks through feeding disrupts them from doing their role in keeping the balance of the ecosystem.

Whale sharks are never a threat to the fish population. The main threats continue to be overfishing, pollution, and big commercial fishing interests that haul large amounts of fish from Philippine seas which are not necessarily for domestic consumption. These are the ones that should be addressed.

Caring for whale sharks, dolphins, and their ecosystem that provides fish that man harvest for food is consistent with the teachings of the Bible. God is practically asking man to be stewards of its creation: cultivating, caring, and protecting the environment and the animals in it. Killing these animals is opposite to what God has been asking man to do.

Even before Tañon Strait was declared a protected area in 1998, groups such as the Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines, Balyena.org, and the Large Marine Vertebrates Project (LAMAVE-Philippines) have been conducting studies and research about the marine wildlife of the Visayas. Earth Island Institute Philippines recently had a seminar and workshop with these experts who are very passionate in what they do – from identifying marine populations to actually identifying and studying each individual.

We believe they have a lot of information to share especially about keeping the balance between harvesting marine resources for human consumption and protecting these ecosystems. Mayor Nelson Garcia should invite them and hear what these experts have to say.

We hope Valentine’s Day would extend to all other creatures. Instead of sending out a message of hate against these animals, we should be asking people to love them more. Loving them would return a more bountiful catch for Filipino fisherfolks, and a more abundant future for Filipino coastal communities.

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