Supok spotted anew in Pangasinan!
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SUPOKS were recently spotted in San Fabian beach here in Pangasinan. Supok is the local name for butanding or whale shark. A whale shark is neither a whale nor a dangerous predator shark as its name suggests. It is actually docile and it filter-feeds and eats planktons. It is so friendly that it allows swimmers to ride it. This practice is however discouraged as it may harm the fish. Known as the largest extant fish species, they could reach lengths of 40 feet or more.
The friendly supok that was spotted in the Lingayen Gulf off the beach of San Fabian town was approximately 15 feet while the more timid young whale shark was 6 feet in length. These “supok sightings” here have been an additional tourist attraction since 2013 although whale shark visits here are not as the frequent as the one in Oslob, Cebu or Donsol, Sorsogon. Whale sharks’ migratory patterns in the Philippines and worldwide are still a mystery. However, they do return each year to the plankton-rich shores of the Philippines. Whale sharks usually start to arrive in November and reach their peak numbers in January up to summer. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources believe the supok sightings are a sign of Lingayen Gulf’s rich biodiversity and bountiful marine food. Such events could be a tourism booster however we should remind tourists to practice sustainable tourism by avoiding to go too near them or hurt them. Dynamite fishing is also a no-no as it will kill corals and small fishes as well as disrupt the whale shark’s sense of echo location which is important for their migration. The ecotourism in places like Donsol and Oslob has made it a lucrative alternative to fishing. The Philippine government has protected whale sharks nationally to address their declining population and preserve their tourism value. It is acknowledged that these protections may not be enough and it is proposed that whale sharks receive full protection wherever they are found.
Currently, whale sharks are classified as vulnerable species. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) would like to reclassify them as endangered. This proposition was stated during the international convention of the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS) of Wild Animals. The Philippines is host to the 12th Conference of 124 State Parties to the Convention on October 23-28, 2017 the first time the triennial meeting is being held in Asia. DENR wants three other migratory species to be included in the list of protected species. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has already reclassified the whale shark as endangered last year.
Great news! The Philippines has been named by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) as one of the five “migratory species champions” in the world for protecting migratory animals particularly the whale shark.
Congratulations to all eco-warriors! May we continue to be champions in our continuing fight for sustainable tourism and against pollution, habitat destruction and wildlife hunting and trade.
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