Megamouth found dead in Cagayan de Oro

BenCyrus G. Ellorin / MindaNews / 30 January 2005


CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- An endangered megamouth shark was captured and killed here today. The megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios), believed to be a female was enmeshed in the fishing net of Sofronio Casa–ares of barangay Agusan this city early dawn today.


Casa–ares brought the "strange looking fish" to the shores of nearby barangay Gusa and reported it to authorities but when the latter arrived, the megamouth shark was already dead and people were starting to cut off pieces.


Ms. Evie Lumingkit, officer-in-charge of the Fish Health Laboratory of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Northern Mindanao confirmed that the fish was indeed a megamouth shark measuring 4.17 meters and weighing approximately 1,000 kilos.


Nelson Gallentes, of the BFAR's Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Unit said they will facilitate the burial of the endangered fish as provided for by fishery laws.


The capture, killing and slaughtering of endangered species is punishable by an imprisonment ranging from 6 years to 12 years, said Gallentes.


He however said the capture and killing of the megamouth shark was accidental. He said the endangered shark was enmeshed at 20 fathoms deep and that fisherman Casa–ares was helpless in untangling it.


Of the 24 previously recorded megamouth finds throughout the world, two were in Cagayan de Oro, megamouth 11 and megamouth 18. They were found on Feb. 20, 1998 and January 6, 2003, respectively.


Both megamouths 11 and 18 were recorded to have been consumed. The latest find is the only one in the city where the carcass was properly disposed. Fisheries Administrative Order 208 provides that after documentation, the carcass of an endangered marine animal should be buried.


The recent find is perhaps the 25th in the world and the fourth in the country. Megamouth 24 was found on Nov. 4, 2004 in Ilo-ilo.


The first megamouth was found in Hawaii on Nov. 15, 1976.


Gallentes said that further studies should be conducted so that the megamouth shark will be protected.


"From the recorded findings of this endangered species, it would seem that Macajalar Bay is important to the megamouth sharks. Three of the four finds in the Philippines and 3 of the 25 finds worldwide are in Macajalar Bay," he said.