39 reasons to visit BFAR’s fish cemetery

October 29, 2018 at 4:20 am Leave a comment

By Yolanda Sotelo

DAGUPAN CITY – There are 39 reasons for marine life lovers to visit the fish cemetery of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources research center in barangay Binloc. 

These are the 39 marine creatures who died either because of some men’s heartlessness or of natural causes, and were buried in an area that has become sort of memorial park for them.


MEMORIES.  A visitor views the graves of different endangered marine species at the fish cemetery of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Dagupan City. (photo courtesy of RAY ZAMBRANO)

No, one need not bring flowers when visiting the cemetery, but one would leave with valuable lessons about these fascinating sea creatures.

This is because each grave has a marker that contains the animals’ common and tongue- twisting scientific names and the dates they were found and buried. 

One grave is exceptional, though-  the very first animal that BFAR was not able to recognize as it was brought to the facility at three in the morning, and buried immediately.

It was merely marked “Moby Dick.”

It came from Malabon, Metro Manila, abandoned in the beach. The BFAR staff in that province looked for a place to dispose the enormous carcass and a decision was reached to just bring it to BFAR center in this city.

At that time in 1999, the only concern was to dispose of the creature which was estimated to be 1.2 tons. There was no consciousness yet to determine its species.

“So we called it Moby Dick,” said BFAR center chief Westly Rosario said. (Moby Dick is the white whale being hunted by a ship captain in the 1851 novel.)

But It was the burial of “Moby Dick” that started the development of the fish cemetery.

From a simple, single grave, the area has become a common grave of other large endangered species which are collected by BFAR  or brought to the center by concerned citizens, coastal town officials and fishermen.

The burial grounds has been expanded from 80 square meters to 1,312 square meters.

After Moby Dick, 30 dolphins of different species, three  whale sharks and  five sea turtles were buried at the cemetery though the years.

It was in the year 2000 that the need to establish a cemetery for fish and other marine creatures was planned.

 This was because that year, six spinner dolphins (Stenella longilostris) were beached and killed by fishermen of Sabangan,  Dagupan City.

It was too late when the BFAR learned of the stranding of the marine mammals, and only three were still alive when the phenomenon was reported.  Three dolphins have not been slaughtered yet and were released back to the sea.

The year  2015 could be the saddest year yet for marine conservationists because that year, 10 dolphins stranded in different coastal towns facing the Lingayen Gulf.  

Five Frazer’s dolphins (Lagenodelphis hosei)  beached on four succeeding days  of January –Aringay (26) Dagupan City (two on the 27th and one on the 28th) and one in Lingayen (29th).

On May that year, the bodies of two Risso’s dolphins were surrendered by fisherfolk of Sual (May 2) and of Dagupan (May 31).

Another Risso’s dolphin was brought to the center on August 28 by Lingayen fisherfolk, while a Spinner dolphin was found dead in  San Fabian beach on August 28.

Hope was high that the Risso’s dolphin found still breathing on August 28  in Lingayen beach would survive. But it died on September 1.

The other sea creatures were found in different coastal towns of Pangasinan and La Union  from 1999 to 2018.

Each of them has a story to tell, and visitors would learn about their fascinating tales when visiting the fish cemetery.

Like its name, there is nothing fancy about the burial grounds – but there is plenty of knowledge about marine life that can be acquired when going there.

When alive, beached protected sea creatures are sent back to the sea, but the dead are buried to serve as reminders that selling and eating their meat is a crime and not tolerated by the government.

“The cemetery institutionalizes human respect to animal species that contribute to the balance of aquatic environment but are abused by humans,”Rosario said.                                                                                                           

Being an archipelago, the Philippines is gifted with rich and very diverse aquatic fauna, but  important species are either threatened, endangered or near extinct.

 The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998 (RA No. 8550) prohibits the fishing or taking and trade of rare, threatened or endangered species as listed in the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora).

 Poachers are apprehended and specimens of endangered species are confiscated.

 While live-specimens are released back to their environment, the dead fish do not have a specific place for disposal, but some of them do end up at the BFAR’s fish cemetery.

Entry filed under: News.

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