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ALBAY, Philippines – Environmentalists and employees of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) here lit up candles on the tombs of marine mammals on Tuesday, All Saints’ Day, in keeping with an annual tradition that started nine years ago.
The Philippines’ first cetacean cemetery was established in 2013 within the 15-hectare compound of BFAR in Barangay Fabrica in Bula town, Camarines Sur.
It is maintained by the Fisheries Regional Emergency Stranding Response Team, a group conducting emergency rescue operation and postmortem examination of endangered marine species.
Fourteen sea mammals are buried at the cemetery, among them two Risso’s dolphins, Fraser’s dolphin, spinner dolphin, four striped dolphins, common bottlenose dolphin, Bryde’s whale, dwarf sperm whale, and melon-headed whale, said Nonie Enolva, BFAR Bicol’s spokesperson.
The cetacean cemetery was established for whales and dolphins that got stranded and died in the Bicol region to raise the public’s awareness and make them care about the endangered sea mammals.
These dead sea mammals were fished out and found by the local fishers and brought to BFAR for a necropsy and for scientific study by students and researchers.
“Bicol is a hotspot of endangered sea mammals due to its archipelagic location. We have the highest numbers of stranded sea mammals since 2015, from 12 to 21 stranding incidents per year,” Enolva said
When asked about the probable causes of stranded sea mammals, she said that the majority of the incidents were caused by human interaction – be it by accidental catching or caused by blast fishing.
Since 2005, Enolva said, more than 200 have been stranded in Bicol, part of the more than 900 across the country.
How important are marine mammals in biodiversity? Enolva replied: “They maintain ecological balance of the seas since they’re apex predators. Mainly their role as top consumer of the so-called trophic levels, these creatures are important to maintain ecological balance.” – Rappler.com