The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), in partnership with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), is conducting a three-month study of the behavior of whale shark (Rhincodon typus), more popularly known as “butanding,” frequenting the coastlines of Oslob and other coastal towns of Cebu, which has spawned a whale-shark feeding enterprise in these areas.
The joint study, which started on Sept. 17, is in response to requests from concerned individuals and groups, urging the two agencies to look into the whale shark feeding activity as it might disrupt or alter the shark whales’ natural feeding behavior, as well as cause possible changes in their migratory behavior.
“I suppose the concerns aired by some concerned groups on the possible impact of the local eco-tourism activity are valid and worth looking into. This is not only for the sake of the whale sharks in Oslob but also for the people in the community as well as the tourists, as whatever the results of the study would serve to guide everybody in formulating strategies to ensure the protection of the wildlife so that they will continue to provide us entertainment and livelihood but ensure their perpetuity,” DENR Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje said.
Paje also said the team is given three months to conclude its work and submit its findings and recommendations to the regional office of the DENR in Cebu.
The study will cover the shores of Brgy. Tan-awan in Oslob, located some 117 kilometers south of Cebu City, where the team is expected to uncover the reasons why the sharks prefer to swim more frequently here that in any other parts of Cebu’s southern coastlines.
Included in the study is the assessment of the health of coral reefs and the benthic life forms present in the area, conduct of plankton surveys, determination of fish abundance and reef species, and to monitor issues and concerns that may affect the health of the whale sharks.
DENR-Region 7 Executive Director Isabelo Montejo indicated in his report to the DENR chief that local fishermen disperse krill or young shrimps to drive the whale sharks away from their fishing grounds as they were not only destroying the fishermen’s nets but were also driving away other fishes.
Locally called “tuki,” whale sharks were first observed in Oslob shores in the 1980s.