Whale sharks return to Pangasinan shores

DAGUPAN CITY — The gentle whale sharks called “butanding” have reappeared in the shores of the Lingayen Gulf and could be another attraction for tourists visiting Pangasinan this summer.

One whale shark was seen in Alaminos City last month and another in Lingayen early this month which is an indication that the immigration of this kind of large animals came earlier than expected.

Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the Dagupan-based National Integrated Fisheries Technology and Development Center (NIFTDC) said the migration of “butanding” in the shores of the Lingayen Gulf since 2001 usually starts by the last week of April.

“We don’t know why they came earlier. It must be because food is plentiful at this time of the year in the mouths of rivers in Pangasinan,” said Rosario.

He said it is possible that there is more food now in the shore than in mid-sea.

It is the breeding season of fish in Pangasinan at this time of the year. That is why the mouths of rivers are teeming with small fish and shrimps, including plankton, said Rosario.

Distinguished for their spotted bodies, whale sharks are friendly and sometimes, people who manage to get near them pat them in the back.

Herds of butanding were seen last year along the shoreline of San Fabian and like in past, some people organized tours called “Butanding Watch” and collected a few pesos from interested tourists.

Rosario called on fishermen and boatmen not to hurt or harm the butanding as they may soon stop frequenting the shoreline of the Lingayen Gulf.

At the same time, he warned fishermen never to catch “butanding” or else they will be in trouble as they are among the endangered sea creatures.

Rosario added that once a “butanding” watch team is organized again, boats carrying tourists would be asked to maintain a safe distance away from these animals. PNA/northboundasia.com