BFAR eyes blast fishing as cause of death of 15 melon-headed whales in Catanduanes

Photo courtesy of BFAR

by Melissa Basmayor

BULA, Camarines Sur (Bicol Standard) -- Blast fishing within the fishing grounds of Lagonoy Gulf or Maqueda Channel is believed to have caused the death of at least 15 melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra), which were discovered on the shore of Barangay Bonot, San Andres, Catanduanes Thursday morning.

Said whales, according to Nonie Enolva, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Bicol spokesperson, were likely part of the pod of around 70 whales which were earlier spotted near the shores of Barangay Wagdas, then later near Barangay Bon-ot, San Andres.

The dead whales were observed to have wounds in their blow holes, fins, and eardrums, Enolva said.

The spokesperson explained that the BFAR team received photos and videos of the stranders, which supported their theory that blast fishing was likely involved.

"The animals appeared to suffer from acoustic trauma or hearing loss and appeared to have difficulty in localizing sounds. Moreover, the photos showed blood that slowly trickle or seep out from the blowhole, ears and mouth suggesting that internal organs may have ruptured abruptly. Such huge damage can only be caused by a massive shock wave that can be caused by an explosion or any other similar activity of equal intensity that created violent changes in water pressure," she said. 

BFAR has subjected some of the cetaceans to necropsy to ascertain the cause of the stranding and deaths, Enolva added.

Meantime, BFAR Bicol Regional Director Nelson Bien has ordered an investigation and monitoring for possible re-stranding.

Mayor Peter C. Cua of San Andres town, for his part, has expressed his commitment to protecting the environment.

The official statement of the local government unit reads: 
Bagama't hindi naman natin ginusto na may mamatay na melon-headed whales, bagkus ay nagbigay ito nang panibagong pinto sa ating pamunuan na mag-umpisa ng educational campaign para sa mga mamamayan at mga kawani ng pamahalaan upang sa sunod na bisitahin tayo ng mga ito o mga katulad nila ay alam ng lahat kung ano ang mga dapat gawin.