Rescued whale shark pup proves Donsol a fertile breeding ground

LEGAZPI CITY—The rescued whale shark (Rhincodon typus) pup in Donsol waters on Sunday (Mar. 15) proved that Donsol Bay and the Ticao-Burias Pass in Bicol region are breeding grounds for the world’s biggest fish.

This is according to the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines, the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute (Lamave) Philippines, and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

On Sunday (Mar. 14) at 6:30 AM., children swimming in Dancalan Beach in Donsol town reported seeing a stranded whale shark that measured 64 centimeters.

The whale shark was released an hour later after documentation.

“This is a good indication that Donsol Bay and Ticao-Burias Pass are breeding grounds for whale sharks,” Manuel Narvadez, Donsol project manager, told Bicol Mail via an online interview.

He said that the whale shark was stranded due to the low tide.

Nonie Enolva, BFAR Bicol spokesperson, said that in the past years, whale shark pups have been sighted in Pilar town, which is also in Sorsogon, and in the Albay town of Pio Duran.

She said that sightings of pregnant whale sharks in the area are strong indications that Donsol is a breeding ground for the gentle giants locally called as butanding.

“The dense aggregation of whale sharks in Donsol can be due to the species being philopatric,” Enolva said. Philopatric animals are those that habitually return to where they were born.

“Or it could be the abundance of food because they are dependent on food pulses. When there is an abundance of planktons in Donsol, they migrate to Donsol,” Enolva said.

Donsol is a town popular to tourists who want to swim and interact with whale sharks.

Meanwhile, Joni Miranda, Donsol Whale Shark Research and Conservation Project leader for Lamave, said that they believed that the area is a breeding ground for whale sharks “since the first time we had a juvenile whale shark stranding in 2009.”

She said that the only three instances that live whale shark pups have been sighted in the world were all in Donsol.

Enolva said that a pregnant whale shark can have as many as 300 pups.

“We have an evidence of that from a slaughtered whale shark in Taiwan,” Enolva said.

The BFAR official said that the pup could not have been from Ningaloo in Australia, Indian Ocean, nor Maldives because “those are too far away. It will tire.”

Miranda said that the pup whale shark found could not have survived if the children who first saw the whale did not know what to do.

“I've spoken to the kids who found it first. These kids are aware on what to do. They immediately reported it to someone who can be responsible with the handling since thy know whale sharks shouldn't be touched,” Miranda added.