A Monthly Newsletter on Culture and Science of the National Museum of the Philippines

ISSN 0117-4584

Research Corner

Of Whales and Dolphins

by Rod Caberoy

There are 17 species of cetaceans listed so far for the country (Leatherwood et.al. 1993; Dolar and Wood, 1993). Thirteen of these can be readily sighted amoung our local seas. There had been only one balleen (non-toothed) whale recorded, namely the Bryde's (Fin?) whale or Balaenoptera sp. Majority is of the toothed kind. These are the sperm whale, Physeter catodun; dwarf sperm whale, Kogia simus; shortfinned pilot whale, Globicephala macrorhynchus; melon-headed whale, Peponocephala electra; pygmy killer whale, Feresa attenuata; beaked whales, Mesoplodon sp.1 and Mesoplodon sp.2; spinner dolphin, Stenella longirostris; pantropical spotted dolphin, Stenella attenuata; bottlenose dolphin, Tursiops truncatus; Risso's dolphin, Grampus griseus; and Fraser's dolphin, Lagenodelphis hosei.

A definite place to look for whales and dolphins is at the Tanon Strait (Negros-Cebu), which connects Visayas Sea and Bohol Sea. The rare dwarf sperm whale and the beaked whale have been noted to occur here. Sperm whales have been reported at Palawan, Bohol, Camiguin, Siquijor, Cebu and Negros. Non-toothed whales like the Bryde's whale can be found at Pamilacan Island, Bohol and between Negros-Siquijor. A very rare white (albino) spinner dolphin has been sighted at Pamilacan Island. Humpback whales had been recorded off in Southwestern Palawan and South Sulu Sea.

Identification of cetaceans can be easily done by noting the size and shape of their fins as well as closely comparing their distinguishing color, markings, and scarrings. A handy SLR camera with zoom lens or a video camcorder and a good chase boat can greatly help.

Most likely the first encounters would be with the Spinner dolphins, Risso's dolphins, and the Fraser's dolphins. Whales and dolphins usually frolick in groups called pods.

It is high time for the law makers to come out with a good fishery law for the regulated fishing and hunting of these sea mammals. Specific ban on fishing is necessary particulary for the Bryde's whales, pilot whales, beaked whales, and Risso's dolphins since these have become rare and vanishing species. A special interest group that can lobby for the said relevant law has to be organized.

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created: June 15, 1996
updated: January 8, 1997
APSIS Editor Johann Stockinger