Playful dolphins frolic in Albay Gulf
By Rhaydz B. Barcia
Under the shadow of majestic Mount Mayon, a shoal of playful dolphins were seen swimming and frolicking in Albay Gulf, mesmerizing and captivating the attention of local residents amidst the pandemic.
The hundreds of frolicking friendly dolphins were seen within the waters of Barangay Buhatan, Sto. Domingo town up to the coast of Legazpi by the group of Dr. Allan Schapira, an environmentalist and retired World Health Organization physician together with this reporter as they passed through the area on their back to Legazpi City from Barangay Mataas in Cagraray Island, Bacacay, Albay.
Barangay Mataas in Cagraray Island is an adjacent area of Buhatan village in Sto. Domingo town.
“Seeing them play, I think makes anybody happy. I guess it says something about our ecosystem not being too damaged, when they can still find food,” Schapira said.
Schapira was able to witness the playful dolphins thrice with the assistance of boatman and skipper Marlon Abion.
Abion, a fisherman by profession, is skilled at spotting dolphins from a long distance and safely maneuvering his wooden banca near the mammals but not too close to ensure the protection and not to hit any of the frolicking dolphins.
Environmentalists and local tourists were overjoyed about the presence of marine mammals but some fishermen according to the Integrated Coastal Resource Management Unit (IRCMU) feedback were unhappy as they eat a lot of fish from the gulf.
Pod of dolphins swarms Burias pass due to abundance of lawlaw or tamban
“Incidentally, I heard today in ICRMU, Legazpi City, that many fisherfolk are not so happy about their presence - as they take a lot of fish!” he said.
The IRCMU of Legazpi City was organized to protect the city’s natural marine resources as well as to promote sustainable development and ensure food security for the people of city.
Nonie Enolva, BFAR-Bicol Marine Fisheries Resources Management Section chief and spokesperson, told Bicol Mail that hundreds or thousands of dolphins were frolicking in Albay Gulf specifically in Sto. Domingo due to good feeding ground and good ecosystem. The gulf in Albay is marine mammals’ playground where they can jump, play and dance with the waves and nourish.
“Marine mammals like dolphins migrate for two things: Food and sex for procreation. Starting March until September, dolphins are swarming in Albay Gulf because of food like plankton and small pelagics,” Enolva said.
“There’s so many dolphins in Albay Gulf because of the good source of food and biodiversity. Albay Gulf could also be a breeding area but we don’t have any established data and no evidence of mating yet in the area,” Enolva said.
According to Enolva, most of the dolphins swarming in Albay Gulf were Spinner dolphins, Striped dolphins and common Bottlenose dolphins.
Albay Gulf where the presence of endangered marine mammals stays from March to September or for 7 months is due to abundance of round scad, or “galunggong,” plankton, squids, shrimps, jellyfish, octopuses and kuwaw (red fish) in the area which serve as the dolphins’ food.
Dolphins eat a variety of fish, squid, shrimps, jellyfish and octopuses. They move and migrate in pods and hunt as a group that surround a shoal of small fish and crowd them together.
Spinner dolphins are well known for acrobatic acts as they spin their bodies when they emerge from the water. Dolphins, similar to other sea mammals, usually stay in deep waters for about 15 to 20 minutes and go to the surface to breathe.
But when they are disturbed, these mammals look for a sanctuary, where they can be relieved of the shock by putting up their heads and laying on the surface to breathe.
Albay Gulf is facing the Pacific Ocean, home to several species of dolphins including bottlenose, spinner, and Pacific white-sided dolphins. Dolphins that live in the deep ocean are better adapted to tolerating cold water and can have a long life under natural conditions.
Enolva said that dolphins are an endangered species and are vital to maintain the balance of the marine ecosystem as they are apex predators.
Among the major gulfs in Bicol, Albay and Ticao-Burias pass are two major gulfs with good sources of food and biodiversity according to Enolva.
The pod of dolphins is also swarming in Ticao-Burias-Pass to Ragay Gulf because of the abundance of sardines (Sardinelia lemuru) locally called here as lawlaw or tamban. Burias Pass is located between Albay and Masbate provinces.