PAGUDPUD, Ilocos Norte–Local fishermen have spotted a group of whales very near the shore in Barangay Pasaleng , this coastal town April 2. For fear that the sea mammals were stranded in the area, the fisherfolks immediately alerted the local authorities. The whales however were in no danger and they moved farther in the sea but close enough for the people especially tourists to enjoy watching them dive and resurface in the water.
After seeing the photos of the whales online, a team of humpback whale experts from Balyena.org, led by AG Saño, visited the area where the whales were sighted. The team interviewed several witnesses and residents of Barangay Pasaleng and found out that whales appeared in the same area yearly for decades, especially during the Holy Week. The same old stories about the whales appearing in Pasaleng and nearby coastal barangays were retold to them by their late parents and grandparents. The fisherfolks themselves had claimed they even heard musical sound apparently created by the whales which , at first, thought they were ghosts. They have a superstitious belief that the appearing whales bring in luck and more fish catch for their community.
According to Saño, whales like to sail to the Philippines sea to breed because of its warm waters. The documented whales in Pasaleng on April 2 consisted of an adult male and female and one calf (baby whale) which probably was learning how to dive and breathe. Although when the residents first spotted the whales on March 31, they were able to count 10 whales in the area. The whales stayed in the vicinity for five days.
Because of the incredible size of humpback whales (they could reach up to 16 meters in length) and the over-protectiveness of nursing humpback whales, the researchers advised the locals not to get near them to avoid being injured by a flick of the whale’s fins or tail. Since the whales in Pasaleng can be seen by the naked eye from the shore, tourists can enjoy watching them even from the beach.
Balyena.org strives to identify each whale that passes in Philippine waters. Each fluke or tail of a humpback whale is distinct, like fingerprints in humans. When they compared the photos of the Pagudpud whale’s fluke with their catalog of other fluke photos, they were able to identify it from previous sightings in Babuyan Islands from the early 2000’s. Nicknamed “Lagarista”, the Pagudpud whale was last seen by the researchers in 2006.
With the discovery of this new area for whale sightings, Balyena.org plans to conduct regular whale research and conservation efforts in Ilocos Norte.