An 18 foot whale shark was found last week in Bahay Kambing, a cove in the municipality of Tingloy, by some divers, including several from Hong Kong. Its dorsal and pectoral fins had all been cut off and there were rope marks on its tail. It was towed to Caban cove which was calmer and volunteers tried to help it. Unfortunately it died in the night from its injuries.
Having been fortunate enough to see a similarly sized whale shark in Thailand, this is very sad.
Whale sharks are classified as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and they are protected under Philippine law. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to have made much difference in this case.
The photo above was taken from WWF-Philippines website, where they have a long article on this.
Here’s another photo and a link to an article, this time from the Philippine Star’s website.
I’ve also seen a number of photos on Facebook, so the incident is becoming more widely reported worldwide.
There’s also a thread on Scubaboard’s forum.
According to a couple of the articles I read, “locals” have suggested that the whale shark may have become entangled in a fishing net, and had its fins off in order to recover the net! Several years ago in Hong Kong during a shallow night dive a bunch of squid fishermen turned up. Since lights attract the squid, they no doubt concluded that underwater dive lights would be even better at attracting them, so they dropped nets around 3 pairs of divers. It’s a good job they didn’t apply the same logic as these Philippine “locals”, otherwise we’d have got 6 divers back with no arms and legs left.
Presumably if these “locals” are to be believed and saving the nets were the priority, the fins would have been discarded and no-one would dream of selling them for USD 800 per kilo. And I’m not convinced that under Philippine law that it makes any difference why you kill a protected animal, it is still illegal. I don’t think I’m alone in that view as apparently WWF-Philippines and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) have announced a reward of P100,000 to anyone who can provide information leading to the arrest of the people involved.