BACOLOD CITY – A critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin was discovered dead in the waters off Pulupandan town in Negros Occidental on September 25 that raised serious concern from marine wildlife conservation group Earth Island Institute Philippines.
In a press release dated September 29, Mark Louie Aquino, the group’s campaign officer, said marine scientists in the area, led by experts from the University of St. La Salle (USLS), were still in the process of identifying the cause of death of the Irrawaddy dolphin.
Irrawadday dolphins have been categorized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red list of Threatened Species (IUCN Red list) as “critically endangered” because of its dwindling number, Aquino said in a statement.
At present, there are only 13 remaining individual Irrawaddy dolphins, according to the marine population surveys, he added.
The group cited that, in November 2019, Senator Juan Edgardo ‘Sonny’ Angara filed a resolution, urging the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), through the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the local government units (LGUs) of Pulupandan and Bago City in the province to immediately take necessary steps to protect the remaining Irrawaddy dolphins in the Guimaras Strait and declare their habitat as “marine protected areas” (MPA).
However, the declaration process from the local government unit of Pulupandan remains elusive in signing the MPA, the group said.
“We earnestly urge the national government to immediately adopt the proposal of the local scientists and communities to declare parts of the coastal areas as MPA aimed at helping these Pinoy dolphins survive their crisis on population,” Aquino said.
“This should be a national priority since the Irrawaddys are our national treasure and pride,” he added.
Earth Island Institute Asia-Pacific said that only by declaring the area as MPA will the country be able to enhance the conservation efforts to prevent the extinction of the Irrawaddys.
This means that all human activities in the area were the Irrawaddy dolphin can be found must immediately stop.
Fisherfolk and companies that will be affected by these policies should be supported by the concerned LGUs, as well as the national government. Alternative livelihood such as promoting ecotourism like dolphin watching can be introduced to the locals, the group said.
Earth Island Institute Philippines is an international organization that promotes awareness, grassroots environmentalism for the protection, conservation, and restoration of nature, focusing on marine wildlife.
Meanwhile, the Lumba project, a center for research and engagement on critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphins found in Bago and Pulupandan areas, of the USLS, said in their Facebook post, that the Irrawaddy dolphins in Guimaras Strait are the most endangered mammals in the region, with their population at dangerously low levels.
Their survival is being threatened by several factors aggravated by the fact that they live in coastal areas near shore, where they are vulnerable to the effects of industrial, domestic, and agricultural pollution, boat traffic, net entanglement, and habitat degradation, the group said.