Where sea creatures may rest in peace

November 7, 2009 at 8:16 am Leave a comment

PhotobucketDAGUPAN CITY – Even sea creatures deserve a decent final resting place, and on October 29, a 5.2-meter long whale shark found dead in Manila Bay was buried at the fish cemetery at the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Research Center.

BFAR Center Chief Westly Rosario said Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap ordered that the gigantic fish be given proper burial, and that a truck has been sent to fetch its remains.

It will be the 16th sea creature to find final resting place at the fish cemetery which is being spruced up for the commemoration of All Saints Day on November 1.

Cement markers have replaced the wooden ones and a gazebo (concrete shed) is being built where collection of photos of the species buried, their biology and news clippings will be displayed, for better appreciation of the visitors and students, Rosario said.

The fish cemetery was established in February 1999 in a corner of the BFAR center. It used to measure 80 square meters but has been expanded to 1,312 square meters as more sea creatures were buried there.

“The fish cemetery has been attracting curious visitors such as students and trainees at the Asian Fishery Academy (also at the BFAR center). They would ask questions about the species buried and how they died,” Rosario said.

He said the establishment of the fish cemetery has helped in creating awareness about protecting sea creatures. Most of the time when there are giant fish species seen in the Lingayen Gulf or other areas, the BFAR gets calls from concerned residents about their presence.

“We get reports about sick species and requests that they be treated or brought at the center. We also get requests to bury the dead ones at the cemetery,” Rosario said.

Each species buried at the fish cemetery has its own story to tell. The first one – a 1.2 ton named Moby Dick – was about to be butchered when it confiscated in Malabon Metro Manila by the BFAR central office in February 1999.

On March 8, 2000, a mass burial was held for five spinner dolphins (Stenella longilostris), after they were killed by fishermen in Sabangan, Dagupan City. There were 11 dolphins who came for a “visit” but were met with cruelty by humans.

The last to be butchered by local fishermen was a rissos dolphin in San Fabian on July 2000. The following years, those buried at the cemetery either died of sickness or wounds, probably by hunters in the high seas.

In November 2002, residents of Bugallon brought a sick sea turtle to the BFAR center but it was too weak to be revived.

For two days on April 2005, officials of the provincial government tried to keep a wounded dwarf sperm whale in Lingayen Gulf, at the back of the Capitol. But it died, too.

The last one to be buried was a 10-meter long Minke whale (Balaenoptera auctorostrata) the BFAR people named Roxanne.

It was found dead in Manila Bay on December 31, 2008 and was buried on January 1, 2009 or the first day of the year. It was not known how it died.

Rosario said burying the remains of protected fish species will remind people that selling and eating their meat is punishable by law.

The cemetery institutionalizes human respect to animal species that contribute to the balance of aquatic environment but selfishly abused by humans.

“I think awareness on protecting the endangered species is high now. Fishermen no longer catch and butcher whale sharks and dolphins which have, during the recent years, come to graze and frolic in the Lingayen Gulf especially during summer time,” Rosario said.

Entry filed under: Features.

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