Editorial: Don’t disturb

IF it’s any consolation, blacktip sharks won’t take humans for a neighbor or, better yet, as mid-day merienda.

The fish-eating shark was suddenly thrust into the limelight following the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (Bfar) public call to let them be.

Graceful leapers in shallow waters, the sharks have recently become both random attraction and cause of fear among clueless tourists in the southern tip of Cebu, in the seas off Santander town.

The Municipal Agriculture Office in Santander reported to the Cebu Provincial Fishery Office (PFO), saying that this juvenile bunch is in Santander’s shallow waters to scramble for food. PFO officer Edgardo Delfin said people need not be afraid. These sharks swim away at the hint of human presence and that they only bite when threatened or harmed.

The lagoon-like environment near the marine sanctuary in Santander’s Barangay Pasil is ideal host for the blacktip sharks’ nurseries. The shark specie usually appears in the first quarter of every year, said Delfin, who advises the public to just stay away from them.

It must be noted that blacktip sharks are classified as “Near Threatened” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s red list. These sharks have low reproductive rate and have high value for fishers for their oil. Cebu, however, has a provincial ordinance that bans the catching or collecting of sharks.

After the Bfar’s call, we do hope Santander’s local government keeps its vigilance in safeguarding the well-being of these sharks. The town’s charm comes from its being the quieter southern frontier of the Cebu island, still safe from the fate that Oslob has fallen deeply into.

A joint study by the Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines and a Canadian university revealed the harmful overcrowding in the Oslob whale shark watching tours. From a figure of 98,000 guests in 2012, it had leaped to a whopping 508,000 in 2018. While the tours haul hefty millions in tourism revenues (P505 million in 2016), it had exposed its marine habitat to irreparable damage.

Imagine a swarm of 40 boats, or 280 people, at any given time in the interaction area.

Remember that these whale sharks were supposed to be transients until some enterprising fishermen began feeding them and have since altered the specie’s normal migration routine.

We should go by the lessons from Oslob and prevent anything of that sort in Santander.