02 October 2010

SBMA cautions public on “butanding” viewing in Subic Bay

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has issued guidelines to ensure the safety and protection of a whale shark that has been spotted over the weekend at the port of Subic.

The guidelines, which were issued by the agency’s Ecology Center to protect the animal from stressing conditions and elements, temporarily disallowed marine vessels and motorized boats from docking at the Boton Wharf where the five-meter long animal was last seen early Tuesday morning .

However, kayaks and small rubber boats will be allowed in the area but only at a particular distance as designated by the SBMA Harbor Patrol.

The SBMA also disallowed scuba diving in the area, as well as the use of machineries that produce noise.

“We have issued the guidelines, not only to protect the whale shark from harm, but also to take control of the crowd situation,” said Amethya Koval, head of the SBMA Ecology Center, who noted that the reported sighting of the rare animal has brought curious onlookers, as well as news reporters, to the Subic free port.

Koval said that as part of the guidelines or protocol, the SBMA Law Enforcement Department has been ordered to cordon off the area one meter from the edge of the pier to prevent people from accidentally falling into the water.

“We have designated an area in the pier for the benefit of the viewing public, but we shall strictly disallow noise. We are asking the public to turn off their vehicles once they are at the parking area,” she added.

Koval also said that members of the media who would like to view or film the whale shark should coordinate with the SBMA Public Relations Department for proper procedure during the coverage.

The whale shark, locally known as “butanding”, was first spotted last Thursday at the Boton Wharf by workers who were waiting for their service boat to arrive.

After several sightings near the pier, the whale shark not spotted again. However, Koval said the animal is believed to have remained in the bay.

Witnesses, including experts from the Subic-based Wildlife in Need (WIN), earlier reported that the butanding was in stable condition.

Koval also clarified that the whale shark was not stranded, as reported in the media earlier.

“It’s quite normal for butanding to be seen in Subic Bay,” Koval said. “Every year whale sharks are seen in the waters of Morong, Bataan, and around Subic Bay, particularly at the Redondo area,” she added.

Koval also said it is considered a normal behavior for whale sharks to venture into bays or coves in their search for food and then also leave the area after some time.

“Meanwhile, our main task now is to locate the whale and monitor its movement,” said Koval. (SBMA Corporate Communications)