Scores gone

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THIS WEEK, on the occasion of the World Ocean;s Day, we begin with a thought: there have been 56 dead whales and dolphins recovered along various parts of the Davao Gulf in the past seven years alone.

This means that every six months or so, one cetacean washes up ashore here, likely resigned to a death it had no idea it would come to when they don’t survive.

The deaths range from the natural ones, such as age, to stranger albeit preventable ones such as beachings and suffocations.

In the worst cases, the whales, dolphins, and sea turtles that have washed ashore were hit by less than natural causes.

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Some suffer wounds from propeller blades, some from miseducation, while some plainly starve from a plastic wrapper or straw that has made its way to the ocean.

While five of the deaths have been ruled as natural deaths, four out of the 56 dead cetaceans were pregnant.

Last March, D’Bone Musem curator messaged the TIMES to report the death of another male pygmy sperm whale.

While experts, including those from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, did not reveal the exact cause of death of the pygmy sperm whale, we are taken to the body of the whale which told of the little life it lived.

According to TIMES columnist Darrell Blatchley, curator of D’Bone Museum who performed the autopsy, the dead whale may have died from a variety of causes.

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It had parasites, part of its ear had puss, while plastic littered in its digestive system, the relatively small creature’s body unable to absorb what it thought could have been food.

The puss in the ears, he said, could be an indication its ears was ruptured. As a result, during the autopsy and possibly while it was alive, the whale already had parasites as long as five feet long.

Dynamite fishing may have caused the rupture in the ears.

In all the incidents, Blatchley points to his fellow humans as the primary culprits, with an absence of a gulf-wide implementation of a solid waste management program among the obvious reasons the trash still makes its way to the sea.

That there are still dead whales that wash ashore in 2017 and a volunteer-strengthened government fisheries programs addressing beachings and other situations involving cetaceans appears to be a testament to how far we still need to go with the gentle giants of the sea.

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Along one of our shores, for example, are nesting sites of sea turtles whose majority will be wiped out by a statistical certainty in their short lifespan.

Who knows what other creatures are at the gulf.

June 8, earlier this week, is known as the World Ocean’s Day, with a focus not only on the cetaceans but the entire ocean altogether.

We have been taught since childhood that most of the world is an ocean, and yet we only find out about a great pacific garbage patch the size of Texas floating in it only later in life.

In the Philippines, Proclamation No. 57, s. 1999 declares the month of May as the Month of the Ocean, through a Presidential Proclamation.

According to a text of the proclamation, the government recognizes that “coastal and marine resources provide both economic and ecological benefits, such as food, livelihood, recreation and other services, as well as biodiversity, aesthetic value, and shoreline protection.”

The Philippine Constitution, for its part, says “the State shall protect the nation’s marine wealth in its archipelagic waters, territorial sea, and exclusive economic zone, and reserve its use and enjoyment exclusively to Filipino citizens,” the government portal www.gov.ph writes.

It is 2017, and our environmental protection laws appear to need an overdue overhaul.

Posted in HEADLINES