PIODURAN, Albay: The 15-footer male megamouth shark fished out in Burias Pass by Albay fishermen here early Wednesday morning is the rarest species in the world, weighing one ton with a life span of 100 years, an official of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol said.
Nonie P. Enolva, BFAR-Bicol Marine Fisheries Resources Management Section chief, said the megamouth shark (scientific name: Megachasma pelagios) is also the third biggest filter-feeding shark.
“The fishing out of the megamouth shark within the Burias Pass is an indication that the area is highly diverse and one of the important key marine biodiversity areas in the Philippines,” Enolva said.
The shark was captured by Edgar Chavez, 39, a fisherman from Barangay Marigondon in Pioduran, Albay and his companions.
Chavez, a father of four, said the rare shark was caught at about 1 a.m. Wednesday while his group was fishing near Catandulan Point in Donsol waters within the Burias Pass.
“We were engrossed in fishing when the shark was trapped in our net and eventually destroyed it. We tried to entangle it from entrapment to save the sea creature, unfortunately the fish died this morning,” he narrated on Wednesday afternoon in this coastal village, some 80 kilometers of winding road from Legazpi City.
The megamouth shark can reach a maximum length of 17 feet and resides in great depths or deep water but rises toward the surface at night to feed on plankton.
Aside from plankton, the shark with a wide open mouth also eats shrimp, krill and jellyfish.
With a bulbous head and big mouth, it is the smallest of the three planktivorous sharks, beside the whale shark and basking shark.
Since its discovery in 1976, few megamouth sharks have been seen, according to Enolva, and this is the second time that a megamouth shark was accidentally caught in Bicol waters, specifically in Burias Pass.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay), a strong anti-illegal fishing advocate, said there is a need to protect the Burias Pass against illegal fishing.
“That is why we have to have a strong advocacy to protect the body of water against illegal and unauthorized fishing — and also to protect it from pollution,” Gonzalez said.
He also called on the local government officials to help preserve Burias Pass.
Enolva said the BFAR will conduct a study to determine the real cause of death of the shark as it might have ingested poisonous materials like plastic that contains poisonous organisms.
The BFAR official said the megamouth shark is not edible as it contains poisonous toxins.
“This is not edible because the fish can have bio-accumulation of heavy metals and once eaten by humans, it might cause deadly diseases like cancer, infertility and other diseases,” she explained.
According to her, they are planning to preserve the fish through taxidermy and display it at the Albay Parks and Wildlife following the order of Albay Governor Joey Sarte Salceda for scientific study.
Taxidermy is the process of removing all organs of the specimen, soaking its skin in formalin and stuffing it for museum display, Enolva explained.
“This is the second specimen for taxidermy that will be processed in the Philippines, next to Darrel Blatchley’s specimen where the artifacts are being displayed at The Bone Collector Museum in Cagayan de Oro City,” she noted.
Enolva said the specimen, if “taxidermied” will be good for exhibit at the Albay Parks and Wildlife. PNA