Recent sightings of sea mammals in Philippine provinces place critically endangered dolphins on spotlight

February 9, 2021 - 6:11 PM
A photo of one of the dolphins spotted at the Sarangani Bay (DENR/Released)

Marine life advocates call to work together for critically endangered dolphins after photos of recent sightings of these sea creatures were shared online.

The Department of Natural Resources-Region 12 (Soccsksargen) and the National Museum-Western Visayas Regional Museum shared photos of sightings of whales and dolphins on Facebook on Monday night.

The beautiful shots of these marine mammals immediately caught the attention of social media users as some local media outlets also reported them.

Mammals sightings

The Sarangani Bay Seascape

The DENR-Soccsksargen in its post said hundreds of different species of whales and dolphins were spotted in Sarangani Bay during their marine mammal monitoring from February 2 to 5.

Joy Ologuin, protected area superintendent (PASu) of the Sarangani Bay Protected Seascape (SBPS), said that their monitoring activities are conducted every month “to ensure the strict protection and conservation of the SBPS.”

Ologuin said that while monitoring, they spotted around 20 to 30 short-finned pilot whales (Globicephala macrorhynchus).

They also saw the following species between the coastal waters of Malapatan and Glan in Sarangani Province.

  • Eight Risso’s dolphins
  • Around 80 to 100 spinner dolphins
  • Around 150 to 200 Fraser’s dolphins

Ologuin cited food hunting and nursing of calves as possible reasons for the presence of whales and dolphins at the bay.

Sarangani Bay is a protected area under Proclamation 756 in 1996 wherein it covers the following waters:

“Bounded on the South by the Celebes Sea; on the West-Northwest from corner 15 to corner 18 by the Municipalities of Maitum, Kiamba and Maasim; on the North from corner 18 to corner 20 by the City of General Santos; on the East-Southeast from corner 22 to corner 1 by the Municipalities of Alabel, Malapatan and Glan.”

Iloilo-Guimaras Straits

The Western Visayas regional museum, meanwhile, highlighted that the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) or lumba-lumba sighted at the straights of Iloilo and Guimaras are already critically endangered.

“Yes! There are dolphins in the waters off Iloilo and Guimaras. But we might not get a chance to see them in the next few years if we don’t save this subpopulation fast,” the post read.

“The Irrawaddy dolphin is a range-restricted marine mammal that inhabits coastal, estuarine and freshwater habitats in Indo-Pacific region. Isolated populations of Irrawaddy dolphins are found near estuaries, semi-enclosed and protected bodies of water with freshwater inputs like bays, lagoons and rivers,” it added..

The organization said that according to surveys conducted from 2009 to 2016, only eight to 18 mature individuals remained in this subpopulation and their numbers continue to decline.

The subpopulation was then listed as critically endangered.

The World Wildlife Fund explained that critically endangered means “a species facing an extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.”

This status can be found under the comprehensive International Union of Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species, a database that indicates the conservation of the world’s biodiversity.

Another group of marine advocates called re-posted this and stressed the threats to the dolphin’s sub-population.

“Kung hindi nyo pa alam…meron mga lumba-lumba sa Iloilo-Guimaras Straits! A small, subpopulation of Irrawaddy dolphins reside in the Iloilo-Guimaras Straits. Threatened by entanglement in fishing gears, pollution, habitat degradation and destruction this subpopulation is Critically Endangered,” the group said.