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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, May 14, 2018
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Irrawaddy dolphins and Ocean Month

Rock & Refuge

It is quite interesting that while we are observing the Month of the Ocean this May, the Irrawaddy dolphins have been sighted again in the coastal waters of Bago City in Negros Occidental.

This paper reported Friday the spotting of two Irrawaddy dolphin calves and a pregnant one by the team of researchers from the Bacolod-based University of Saint La Salle Center for Research and Engagement that has been conducting studies on the species in Guimaras Strait, particularly at the coastal waters of Bago City and the adjacent Pulupandan town. The dolphins have been noted at around 10 a.m. Thursday last week.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature has classified the Irrawaddy dolphin as an endangered marine mammal, because its population is getting limited in the wild. Mark dela Paz, research associate at the USLS Center for Research and Engagement, said the latest estimate of his team of the population of the Irrawaddy dolphins in the coastal waters of Bago and Pulupandan ranges from nine to 19 individuals. Dela Paz added the first estimate made of the species in the area was about 30 to 40 individuals.

In 2014, the research of the Silliman University showed that the number dwindled from 18 to 23, de la Paz claimed. Globally, the population of the Irrawaddy dolphins is decreasing, the IUCN reported.

This species occurs in South and Southeast Asia, and is only limited in shallow coastal waters, and usually with freshwater inputs, according to the IUCN. Such factor could be the reason why the Irrawaddy dolphins have been found in Bago City and Pulupandan because it is where the Bago River drains. This species of dolphin is primarily threatened due to accidental capture, especially strangling in the fishnets, and pollution.

De la Paz also expressed apprehension on the proposed construction of bridge connecting Pulupandan and Guimaras since it will cuts across the Guimaras Strait, which is the core habitat of the Irrawaddy dolphins.

As we commemorate the Month of the Ocean, let us remember the significant roles they play, not only maintaining ecological balance, but also in providing us with direct benefits that are crucial for our survival.

It is by this account that Presidential Proclamation No. 57 was issued in 1999 declaring May as the Month of the Ocean in the Philippines.

The proclamation requires the Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture to hold activities that would highlight the conservation, protection, and sustainable management of the country’s coastal and ocean resources. The theme for this year’s observance focuses on the vital role of the marine environment to our food security – Biodiversity for Food SeaCUREity.

The pollution affecting our oceans includes solid wastes, particularly non-biodegradable plastic products. These plastics are not only polluting our coastal and marine waters but they are similarly dangerous to aquatic life. In many instances, plastic products have been found in the digestive system of marine mammals, large variety of fish, and water birds.

In addition, a large portion of coastal waters are severely affected with siltation and sedimentation arising from severe soil erosion in mountainous areas, as well as chemical runoffs from agricultural sites, and pollution from various industries, including mining. There are several other issues and challenges affecting our ocean and most of these resulted from anthropogenic disturbances.*


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