The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Philippines has identified 19 new individual whale sharks in the waters of Ticao-Burias Pass Protected Seascape (TBPPS) since the start of 2020.
Nestled between the provinces of Masbate, Sorsogon, and Albay, the TBPPS is a critical ecosystem that is home to numerous endangered marine species, including the whale shark. The area is rich in marine biodiversity – but development work in the surrounding provinces poses a threat to local ecosystems.
The conservation organization also reports 50 returning individuals, for a total of 69 unique whale sharks spotted since the start of the year. This makes for a total of 733 whale sharks documented in the region since monitoring began in 2007.
The whale sharks were identified as part of WWF-Philippines’ ongoing effort to protect the TBPPS ecosystem. WWF-Philippines has operated sustainable tourism activities in the region since 1998, in a tripartite partnership with the LGU of Donsol and the Department of Tourism Region 5. Whale shark populations have risen since then, and the municipality of Donsol has developed into a third-class municipality.
Tourism activity in the TBPPS remains on hold under ongoing lockdown measures. Despite this, however, WWF-Philippines maintains its daily whale shark monitoring operations.
“It’s important that we continue our whale shark monitoring efforts despite the lockdown. It’s our obligation as WWF-Philippines to continue monitoring activities, and to let the world know of the whale sharks of Donsol and their importance to their ecosystem,” said WWF-Philippines Donsol Project Manager Jun E. Narvadez. The International Union for Conservation of Nature, or IUCN, currently lists the whale shark as endangered.
“Our Butanding Interaction Officers, our spotters, they all help us monitor the whale sharks. This is a community effort that helps both the whale sharks and the people of Donsol. Hopefully, by November, we’ll be able to restart our tourism activities again,” added Narvadez.
WWF-Philippines has continued to provide support to the community of Donsol throughout the current pandemic. With your help, we can continue to #ChangeTheEnding for our whale sharks.