‘Moby Dick’ visits Davao seas days before momentous ban on plastic use

A few days before Davao City approved an ordinance banning single use of plastic, it got an unexpected visit from a rare whale along its seas.

The Davao office of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) captured on video a rare Sperm Whale (Physeter macrocephalus) while traversing the seas between Ligid Island of Davao Del Norte and Kopiat Island of Davao De Oro on June 12.

Davao City’s no single-use plastics law seems momentous for the thriving sea near its area as countless sea creatures were washed ashore dead the past few ywars, with most deaths attributed to plastic materials found inside their digestive system.

The most disturbing find happened sometime in March 2019 when dozens of kilos of plastic trash were found inside the stomach of a dead whale washed ashore in Compostela Valley.

'This whale had the most plastic we have ever seen in a whale,' said American biologist Darrell Blatchley in a Facebook post.

"Forty kilos of plastic bags. Including 16 rice sacks. Four banana plantation style bags and multiple shopping bags," added Blatchley.

Davao City’s ordinance, known as the "No to Single-Use Plastics Ordinance of 2021," was enacted on March 2 which aims to regulate the sale, distribution, and use of single-use plastics in the city. It was recently signed by Mayor Sara Duterte.

The ordinance also aims to implement waste reduction plans, programs, and practices within the city and “to enhance the right of the people to a balanced and healthful ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature.”

This seems to be wonderful news for lovers of the sea, including Blatchley as the ordinance is expected to lessen the chances of sea animals ingesting plastic wastes.

In a previous post, Blatchley said the ingestion of plastic waste would lead to slow deaths of marine animals as these block their gills and stomach.

INGESTED TRASH. In a Facebook post in 2019, American biologist Darrell Blatchley removes tons of trash inside the stomach of a dead whale washed ashore in Davao. (Darrell Blatchley Facebook Page/MANILA BULLETIN)

Meantime, the unexpected visit of the sperm whale was described by the DENR Davao at nature’s way of also thanking their Regional Executive Director Bagani Fidel A. Evasco who has shown exemplary dedication and leadership towards his work. The post said Evasco even extended his environmental services during his free time.

The largest of the toothed whales and among the sea giants, the Sperm Whale can reach 62 feet in length, can weigh as much as 41 tons and has nature’s largest brain. Famously known as Moby Dick in Herman Melville's classic novel, its name was derived from its large round head that contains sperm oil (spermaceti), a lucrative oil used in fixative perfumes, creams and ointment.

Also recorded on the same video was a Risso’s Dolphin playfully swimming along the whale.