BUSUANGA, PALAWAN – Last 6 December 2013 at 8:30 AM, the C3 Busuanga Field Office received a call from the Barangay Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Management Council (BFARMC) Chairman of Brgy. Cheey. The BFARMC Chairman, Clemente Abaño, reported a dugong death in their local community due to entanglement in the ropes of a seaweed farm.
Two young men, Samson Ayso and Edwin Gadiano, Jr., had gone out fishing earlier that day and at 7:00 AM had passed by the plantation located just in front of the coastline of Sitio Minit, Brgy. Cheey. As they passed by the seaweed plantation, they saw that a dugong had been entangled in one of the lines. They reported the incident to Mr. Abaño, who then called up the C3 Philippines Field Office.
C3 Programme Officer Danica Lopez and Programme Assistant Archie Espinosa quickly mobilized in order to get to Brgy. Cheey to secure data and to ensure that the community would not eat the dugong’s meat. The team arrived in Brgy. Cheey at 11:20 AM and met with Mr. Abaño and Brgy. Capt. Montañez about the incident. At this point, the dugong had not yet been disentangled from the ropes, and so the team together with Mr. Abaño, the owner of the seaweed farm and other volunteers went to disentangle the dugong and bring it to shore.
As the 2.6m long animal was brought to shore, the team recorded relevant scientific data and noted that the dugong would have to be buried properly so as to avoid the temptation of locals eating the meat, a crime which is punishable under Philippine law under Republic Act No. 9147 otherwise known as the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, with the penalties of a PhP 100,000.00 to PhP 1,000,000.00 fine and 6-12 years in jail. A spot was then identified which would easily be patrolled and seen regularly by concerned members of the community.
The team was also able to speak with the seaweed farmer. He told us that his seaweed farm had been in the same location for three years. It had been recently destroyed by Typhoon Yolanda, but the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO) of Busuanga had provided new ropes and seedlings to re-start his farm. The new site is a common sighting area for dugongs, as reported in previous Key Informant Interviews conducted by C3 Philippines and as reported by local fishermen through the Dugong-Fisher Monitoring System.
This is also reportedly the 2nd dugong mortality this year caused by entanglement in a seaweed farm. Mr. Dirk Fahrenbach of Dugong Dive Center, Club Paradise reports another such incident earlier this year, along the same northern coastline of Busuanga Island, but in municipal waters which are of the jurisdiction of Coron Municipality.
This only goes to show the need for closer coordination with the local government units, especially the MAO in planning activities such as water zoning, and in the general coordination of all marine-related activities.
On the bright side, however, this incident is also proof that C3 Philippines’ network of fishermen is active. The Dugong Monitoring System has helped set up the beginnings of response network, where target local communities are aware of C3 as the forefront for all dugong-related incidences.
Thanks to Ocean Park Conservation Foundation, Hong Kong, for supporting our dugong research on Busuanga. opcf.org.hk/en/current-projects.php