Melon-Headed Whales Sighted in Bataan

Stranded Melon-headed whales (Photo courtesy of AFP)

Stranded Melon-headed whales (Photo courtesy of AFP)

Around 4:00 am last February 10,  an “unusual phenomenon” occurred near the shallow waters of  Pilar, Bataan. Around 300 hundred melon-headed whales commonly known as electra dolphins were spotted by Rodolfo and Joey Joson only 200 meters from the village shoreline.  When they waded to neck deep waters to get a closer look , the whales did not swim away and made hooting sounds. The melon-headed whales behavior was highly irregular as they normally prefer deeper waters.

Hundreds volunteers comprising of the village fishermen, local police, Philippine Coast Guard personnel along with the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) joined the massive rescue by wading into chest-deep water and guiding the whales to deeper waters.

“Investigations are being conducted by BFAR in order to find out the cause of the abnormal behavior of the large pod of whales. According to BFAR chief Malcolm Sarmiento, the pods behavior  may have been caused by a sea quake that can damage the whales eardrum which led  them to be disoriented and migrate to swallow waters. “

Three of the whales were found dead and stranded on the nearby beaches.

“Senator Miguel Zubiri, on the other hand,  suspects the whales’ habitat must have been disrupted, forcing them to flee and seek refuge in shallow waters. He cited an International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) a study saying that the melon-headed whales may have been distracted by a marine seismic survey being conducted in the exclusive economic zone that includes Taiwan, China, Japan and the Philippines by the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory (L-DEO) – a collaborator of Columbia University in the US .”

“Washington-based animal rights group Wild at Heart Legal Defense Association (WaH) had been reported protesting to halt the L-DEO study as it is destructive to marine ecosystem. According to Robin Winkler, founder of WaH, the multi-beam echo sounder air gun, which will be used in the experiment, could produce a noise equivalent to 265 decibels (dB), almost as deafening as the atomic-bomb blast that could scale up to 300 dB.”

Way back in 2004,  a similar incident involving stranding of hundreds of melon-headed whales occurred when a major American-Japanese sonar training exercise was taking place at the nearby Pacific Missile Range Facility in Hawaii.

“National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said they could not definitely state that sonar caused the stranding, they said extensive study led them to the conclusion that there was no other likely cause. Their analysis indicate there was no significant weather, natural oceanographic event or known biological factors that would explain the animals’ movement into the bay nor the group’s continued presence in the bay, said Teri Rowles, NOAA Fisheries Service’s lead marine mammal veterinarian and lead author of the report. NOAA concluded that sonar was “a plausible, if not likely, contributing factor” to the stranding.”

Watch the video clip on  GMANews.TV

REFERENCE: GMANews.TV, WikiNews, The Washington Post

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3 Comments

  1. The amazing part there was when the locals went to the water and helped soothe the disoriented dolphins. It was touching and inspiring.

  2. That’s the ” Filipino Bayanihan Spirit” at work.

  3. Have Australians Stopped Killing Whales? http://is.gd/mgIT What do you think?

    Please complete our poll on Whaling, too.

    Thanks Lesley


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