Rare shark ends up as dinner

By Katherine Adraneda – Fishermen trawling for mackerel off Masbate near Donsol in Sorsogon instead caught an extremely rare shark and cooked it Bicol style, the World Wide Fund for Nature-Philippines (WWF-Philippines) revealed yesterday.

WWF-Philippines revealed that local fishermen caught a four-meter-long, 500-kilogram megamouth shark last March 30 along the eastern coast of Burias Island.

The group said the shark was retrieved and cooked “kinunot-style” (with coconut milk, malunggay leaves and chili) by the locals.

The report prompted the international conservation group to believe that the Donsol-Masbate region is a haven not just for whale sharks, dolphins and giant manta rays.

“Rarest of all sharks, the megamouth (Megachasma pelagios) is a fairly recent scientific discovery, with just over 40 recorded encounters worldwide,” WWF-Philippines said.

“The first specimen was caught off Oahu, Hawaii in 1976. So different was it from all other sharks that it necessitated the creation of an entirely new family and genus – prompting the scientific community to hail it as the 20th century’s most significant marine find – rivaling the rediscovery of the coelacanth in 1938,” they said.

According to Elson Aca, project manager of WWF-Philippines in Donsol, local fishermen recalled a similar shark was caught in the same area decades ago.

Though the group said the sighting of another megamouth shark is not likely in the near future, it remains possible that similar shark species are in the area.

WWF-Philippines said they would launch an education and information drive among local fishermen on the megamouth shark.

Gregg Yan, WWF-Philippines information officer, said the megamouth is among the world’s rarest shark species, discovered only in 1976.

“Only 40 other megamouths have been discovered worldwide,” he said.

Yan said the latest catch near Donsol would become the world’s 41 megamouth, as named by the Florida Museum of Natural History since it is the 41st found in the world.

The megamouth shark was the very first to have been caught in Luzon, WWF-Philippines said.

“This proves that the Donsol-Masbate region is a haven not just for whale sharks, dolphins and giant manta rays – but for the rarest shark species of all,” he said.

WWF-Philippines said the megamouth shark is so named for its enormous maw, which is estimated to be a meter wide and lined with a brilliant silver band to attract planktonic prey in the depths.

Male megamouths average four meters while females – which give birth to live young – grow up to five meters.

The group also said that a megamouth shark is a poor swimmer, and ranges sporadically throughout the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

WWF-Philippines has worked closely with the municipality of Donsol to establish and refine the now-famous community-based whale shark eco-tourism project, transforming the once sleepy town into one of the Bicol region’s busiest revenue generators and earning it the title of butanding (whale shark) capital of the world.

Funded by WWF-Denmark and supported by the local government, there are current initiatives to establish whale shark migration routes and numbers through state-of-the-art photo-identification and satellite tagging techniques.

Last month WWF-Philippines found and rescued a 15-inch baby whale shark – touted as the world’s smallest – also in Sorsogon.

“The presence of two of the world’s three filter feeding sharks warrants special attention for the Donsol-Masbate region,” the WWF said.

Find more like this: Environment, News


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