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Blast fishing kills 15 electra dolphins

Fifteen melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) also commonly known as electra dolphin, were found dead and believed to have been killed due to illegal blast fishing activity in Lagonoy Gulf, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said.

Nonie Enolva, BFAR Bicol spokesperson, said "Blast fishing is the cause of dolphins mass stranding. We cannot ascertain where the blast fishing took place. It could be anywhere near the area or within Lagonoy Gulf and Maqueda channel".

The dead dolphins were found on the coast of Barangay Bonot, San Andres, Catanduanes, Enolva said.

The Maqueda channel is located within the areas of Caramoan in Camarines Sur and Catanduanes.

"This is the vast or huge fishing grounds," the BFAR official said.

As of the morning of Oct. 8, nine dolphins were reported dead but six more dead dolphins were found lifeless later that day according to Enolva.

"The dead dolphins were pelagic species melon-headed whales. This species is highly migratory," she said. The melon-headed whales usually swim in the water in the upright position to breathe on the surface.

Blast fishing causes shock waves that could cause and lead the sea mammals to lose its balance and coordination.

BFAR employees in Catanduanes who examined the dolphins found wounds in the whales’ eardrums, fins and blow holes.

Enolva said the mammals were among the 70 melon-headed whales being monitored for mass stranding following the widespread blast fishing activities in Lagunoy Gulf.

Mass stranding occurs when the mammals (such as cetaceans, pinnipeds or sirenians) are found close to shallow water or come ashore alive or injured and wash ashore due to untoward circumstances.

The melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), also commonly known as the: electra dolphin, little killer whale, or many-toothed blackfish, is a small- to medium-sized toothed whale of the oceanic dolphin family.

They are migratory, widely distributed throughout deep tropical and subtropical waters worldwide, however they are rarely encountered at sea as they are found near shore only around oceanic islands, such as Hawaii, French Polynesia and in the Philippines.

Recently, a pod of 70 dolphins or so were spotted in the waters off Barangay Bonot, San Andres, Catanduanes, wherein the villagers crowded in the area by boats, others swam and glided with the sea creatures to take “selfie shots” aggravating further the stress condition of the dolphins.

Videos posted on social media showed some residents of the area swimming, holding and gliding with the dolphins.

In a related event, Enolva said a common bottlenose dolphin was also found dead on Oct. 11 in Bahao, Libmanan Camarines Sur. It was found entangled in a fishing net.

Last Sept. 3, 2019, a spinner dolphin was also washed ashore in the town of San Andres, Catanduanes province.

"Two years ago, there was also a mass stranding of dolphins in Tinambac, Camarines Sur. That was striped dolphin. Four dolphins were killed during that time," Enolva said.

But the mass stranding in San Andres town has the highest number of deaths among the stranded dolphins in Bicol.

Dolphins are endangered species and they are protected under Republic Act No. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act.

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