By Rhaydz B. Barcia
LEGAZPI CITY --- A rare 4.2-meter long juvenile female Bryde’s whale weighing around 700 kilos was found lifeless in the waters of Cagraray Island, Bacacay town in Albay.
Last Tuesday, July 3, fishermen of Barangay Namanday, Cagraray Island in Bacacay, Albay fished out the juvenile baby female Brydes whale.
The Bryde’s whale with scientific name Balaenoptera brydei was found dead due to starvation, according to Nonie Enolva, spokesperson of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol.
“The Bryde’s female whale measuring 4.2 meters in length and weighing about 700 kilograms is the 6th of its kind to have been stranded in Bicol waters since 2005. This year, this is the fourth recorded stranding incident here,” she added.
Based in a necropsy findings conducted by BFAR, Enolva said the cause of death was due to “starvation secondary to drowning after having been separated from the mother.”
She disclosed that the whale calf was still breastfeeding based on the necropsy conducted. “Calf was still breastfeeding based on the gastric content and some cookiecutter shark bites. And then she starved and drowned.”
She said that prior to the discovery of dead whale, residents of Namanday reportedly saw a baby whale swimming in the municipal waters off the town.
“The calf was separated from her mother and might not be able to breastfeed. All vital organs are normal,” she said. Few days after, the baby whale was found dead with several nibbles on her body.
Whales and dolphins according to Enolva have tight social bond. “If the leader of the pod is sick or dying usually whales and dolphins maroon altogether in a pod,” she said.
According to the BFAR spokesperson, only few data on conservation status regarding Bryde’s whale in the country are available.
Enolva said that the baby Brydes whale is a rare species. The most distinguishing feature of this species is the presence of three longitudinal rostral ridges, although recent reports have confirmed that these ridges could be indistinct or even absent in some in some individuals.
The body of Bryde’s whale is dark gray above and light gray or white (sometimes pinkish) in the ventral section. There are about 250-370 grayish baleen plates. Its dorsal fin is tall and extremely falcate. The adult sizes for this species range from 8.0 meters to 15.6 meters long.
The average length of calves is 4.0 meter. The Bryde’s whale is rare in Philippine waters and can be confused with Omura whale. The Bryde’s are stranded mainly in the southern section of Luzon and in the Bicol peninsula, she said.
“The collected tissue and blood samples will be sent to UP Institute of Environmental Science and Meterology for research on heavy metal contamination and the occurrences of bacteria, viruses and parasites. The bones will be reconstructed into one whole later for education information purposes,” the BFAR spokesperson said.
The whale’s meat was buried at cetacean cemetery at the compound of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources regional office in Bula, Camarines Sur.
The Cetacean cemetery for whales and dolphins in Bicol is the first and sole facility in the country.
“We established the cetacean cemetery in 2013 mainly to convey to the people the need to take care of our oceans and the importance of these species in the ecological balance of our marine ecosystem,” she said.
Currently, there are 13 cetaceans buried at cetacean cemetery, which include risso’s dolphins, spinner dolphins, fraser’s dolphin and dwarf sperm whales.
For several years now, several giant whales and dolphins were found dead in the waters off Albay since 2010 to date. In March 2017, a dolphin was also found dead in Sorsogon province.
Dr. Evelyn Saberon, BFAR veterinarian who conducted the necropsy of two stranded dolphins, said she found thread-like worms in the stomach of the dolphins found in Libon, Albay and Mercedes in Camarines Norte.
In January 2015, a male megamouth shark was also stranded and found in the coast of Pioduran, Albay. The megamouth) is also the 3rd biggest filter-feeding shark.
A megamouth shark (scientific name: Megachasma pelagios) is among the rarest species in the world, weighing one ton with a life span of 100 years. The megamouth shark can reach a maximum length of 17 feet and resides in great depths or deep water. It rises to the surface at night to feed on plankton.
The megamouth shark according to Enolva is not edible as it contains poisonous toxins – it can have bio-accumulation of heavy metals. Once eaten by humans, it could cause infertility and even cancer.
The megamouth shark underwent taxidermy (all organs of the specimen were removed and its skin soaked in formalin) and stuffing for museum display.
The shark, through taxidermy, was preserved and displayed at the Albay Parks and Wildlife for scientific study, following the order of then Albay Governor and now 2nd District Representative Joey Sarte Salceda
In July 2010, a giant Sperm whale that had started to decompose was also washed ashore in the coastal town of Rapu-Rapu, Albay in 2010.