By Jolene Bulambot
Posted date: January 07, 2008
CEBU CITY, Philippines — A dead whale shark was found caught in the rear part of an international cargo vessel that arrived at the Cebu International Port (CIP) here early morning Monday.
Quarantine officials of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) found the dead whale shark caught in the “icebreaker” of the M/V Elena during the inspection of the vessel when it docked at CIP at 2 a.m. Monday.
The icebreaker is a curved portion at the back of the ship, BFAR and arrastre officials explained.
Lourdes Arciaga, BFAR Central Visayas spokesperson, said they believe the adult whale shark accidentally crashed into the vessel’s icebreaker somewhere in the Sulu Sea or in the seas between Bohol and Misamis Oriental.
It took BFAR officials an hour to extricate the whale shark’s carcass from the vessel’s icebreaker with a cable.
The whale shark, a male, was 7.4 meters long with a body span of 3.4 meters and in the early stage of decomposition, BFAR officials said.
“We believe that the whale shark could have come from the Sulu Sea between the seas of Negros, Bohol or Mindanao because there is an abundant population of whale sharks there. We believe it was just an accident. We don’t think the vessel has a liability,” Arciaga said.
Jun Aui, the vessel’s chief mate, told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net), that they were surprised to learn a whale shark was trapped in the icebreaker.
Aui said the vessel came from Singapore and entered the Sulu Sea on its way to Cebu City, from where it would proceed to General Santos City.
“It [whale shark] was just there. There were strong waves we encountered so we could not notice any bump…” he said.
BFAR veterinarian Thomas Cuyos said whale sharks, considered an endangered species, are found in Visayan waters, particularly in Bohol.
Cuyos said they would get tissue samples to determine the age of the whale shark and then bury the carcass to preserve the bones, which will later be used for laboratory studies.
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