PIODURAN, Albay: A fisherman had the surprise of his life when he fished out a lifeless but very rare 15-foot deepwater megamouth shark (Megachasma pelagios) in Burias Pass on Wednesday.
Nonie Enolva, marine fisheries resources management section head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Bicol, told The Manila Times that the megamouth shark is a very rare deepwater species and is the third biggest filter feeding shark in the world.
“The megamouth shark is the rarest species [of deepwater sharks]in the world. [The fact that this is caught in Burias Pass] indicates that the area is highly diverse and remains a key in biodiversity in the Philippines,” Enolva said.
Rep. Fernando Gonzalez, Albay 3rd District, who is a strong advocate against illegal fishing operations, said the discovery stresses the importance of protecting the Burias Pass against all forms of illegal fishing.
He called on local government executives to make sure that their municipal waters are protected as well.
On record, Wednesday’s incident is the second time that a megamouth shark is caught in the Pass. Megamouth sharks usually thrive in deep water and are the smallest among planktivorous sharks. Since its discovery in 1976, only 59 have been documented. As a filter feeder, it swims with its wide mouth open to sift jellyfish and planktons. A mature megamouth shark can weigh up to one ton and can live up to 100 years.
Fisherman Edgar Chavez said he was out fishing with some friends when he found that a portion of his fishing net was destroyed. When he checked it out, he found the lifeless shark already trapped.
The 39-year-old Chavez added that they tried to save the shark only to find that it was already dead.
The megamouth can reach to a maximum length of 17 feet and resides at great depths or deep-water but rises toward the surface at night to feed or eats plankton. The rare shark has a bulbous head and big mouth.
Gonzalez said the Burias Pass should be protected against illegal fishing and pollution.
The BFAR is conducting a study to determine the cause of the shark’s death. Enolva said that it might ingested poisonous materials like plastic. She also said that people cannot use the shark’s meat since it is not edible and contains a poisonous toxin.
“This [shark]is not edible. It accumulates heavy metals that, once eaten by humans, may cause deadly diseases like cancer, infertility and other diseases,” Enolva said.
According to Enolva they’re planning to preserve the shark through taxidermy and to display this at the Albay Park and Wildlife as Gonzalez and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda has suggested.
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 said.