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Rare shark caught in Donsol–WWF

Posted on: April 7, 2009


Rare shark caught in Donsol–WWF

By Anna Valmero
INQUIRER.net
First Posted 12:56:00 04/07/2009

Filed Under: Animals, Environmental Issues

MANILA, Philippines–A rare shark was caught along the eastern coast of Burias Isle in Donsol by fishermen trawling for mackerel on March 30, officials from the World Wide Fund (WWF) for Nature said.

According to WWF, local fishermen brought the megamouth shark to Dancalan village in Donsol, Sorsogon for assessment.

Elson Aca, Donsol Project Manager for WWF-Philippines, later identified the rare shark, according to WWF.

Megamouth 41, as named by the Florida Museum of Natural History, measured 4 meters and weighed 500 kilograms.

Facial scars indicated a protracted struggle with the fishers’ gill-nets while stomach contents revealed it was feeding on shrimp larvae.

The megamouth shark or Megachasma pelagios is named for its big mouth measuring almost a meter-wide and lined with a brilliant silver band to attract deep water planktons, jellyfish and small fishes it feeds on, said Aca.

It is one of the rarest sharks, with just 40 recorded encounters worldwide since the its discovery in 1976 at Oahu, Hawaii, said Aca.

“The presence of two of the world’s three filter feeding sharks—butanding and megamouth shark—warrants special attention for the Donsol-Masbate region,” said Aca.

“Whale and megamouth sharks, manta rays, dolphins and other charismatic giants indicate that the region’s ecosystem is still relatively healthy. By protecting megafauna, we help maintain the dynamic balance of our seas, and ensure the entire ecosystem’s resilience and natural productivity,” Aca added.

Gregg Yan, information, education and communications officer for WWF-Philippines, said there are three filter feeding sharks—or those that strain suspended matter and food particles from water—whale sharks, megamouth sharks and basking sharks.

The megamouth shark is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources as data deficient because so few have ever been studied, noted Yan.

He added it is a poor swimmer which ranges sporadically throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans. Males average four meters while females grow to five.

Of the 40 recorded encounters, eight megamouth sharks have been caught in Philippine waters.

Four were caught in Cagayan de Oro and one each in Negros, Iloilo and Cebu. Megamouth 41 was the very first caught in Luzon, said Aca.

Against Aca’s counsel, the Masbate megamouth was butchered and cooked as Bicol delicacy “kinunot” (shark sautéed in coconut milk), said WWF.

Fisheries Administrative Order 208 provides that after documentation, the carcass of all endangered marine animals should promptly be buried.

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