A SCIENTIFIC study will be conducted by a group of researchers and students of the Department of Biological Sciences from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, United States, to identify the blue whale species in Bohol Sea.
Edna Sabater, the principal investigator, was in Dumaguete City to request for permission to conduct the study within the municipal waters of Dumaguete City, as well as in nearby Bacong town, all in Negros Oriental.
The blue whale was spotted off Bacong and Dumaguete several months ago. It was named "Bughaw."
Sabater said they are required by existing laws to acquire a Prior Informed Consent from the concerned local government units.
The consent will be submitted as part of the application docket to the Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources permitting division for the issuance of a gratuitous permit or collection permit.
She said the sightings of the blue whale in Bacong and Dumaguete were among the few reported in Bohol Sea, but there was very little research effort done to understand the population of the largest mammal on earth.
The blue whale is categorized by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as endangered globally, with few recognized discrete populations.
Sabater said the blue whale population found in Bohol Sea had not been assessed, and its taxonomy remained unresolved, thereby it has not been listed as protected species under the Philippine Law.
The study, she added, seeks to identify the blue whale population found in the Bohol sea, including that of "Bughaw" in Negros Oriental, the stock it belongs and the extent of distribution.
To date, nobody can tell what kind of blue whale “Bughaw” is, whether it is a pygmy, a true blue whale or a new sub-species.
Sabater said tissue samples to be collected would be used for generic studies and later on for stable isotopes that would lead them to identify the species.
The scope of the survey is the entire Bohol Sea from Dumaguete all the way to San Ricardo or Pintuyan in Southern Leyte, crisscrossing the seawaters from Dumaguete, to Siquijor, then to Mindanao and back to Bohol.
The start of the combination of boat-based visual surveys, molecular genetic tools and photo-identification techniques will depend on how soon the collection permit can be issued from at least 15 municipalities that will be included in the survey, Sabater said.
The study group is also coordinating with the local coast guard for security reasons. (PNA)