Hundreds of dolphins sighted in Bataan waters

Posted at 02/10/09 1:19 PM

A large pack of at least 300 dolphins were sighted swimming slowly in the shallow waters off Bataan on Tuesday morning, an "unusual, strange" phenomenon as described by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

BFAR chief Malcolm Sarmiento said the 200 to 300 dolphins are swimming slowly in the waters off Orion and Pilar towns in Bataan province. He said the dolphins were only at least one kilometer away from the beach of the two towns.

“We will try to determine the actual reason for the phenomenon. It is something unusual. It is the first time that such a large pack [of dolphins] entered Manila Bay, and it’s acting strangely,” Sarmiento told ANC’s Dateline Philippines on Tuesday noon.

Sarmiento, who was on his way to the site, said BFAR experts are looking at two possible reasons why the dolphins found their way in the shallow waters of Bataan.

He said the dolphins could have been caught by a strong seaquake while diving for food underwater.

He explained that a strong seaquake can damage the dolphins’ eardrums.

“Once their eardrums are injured, they would lose their sense of direction and they would become disoriented,” he said, adding that the BFAR and experts from the Ocean Adventure in Manila would have to move faster to save the mammals from growing weak due to starvation.

“They cannot dive for food anymore resulting in a situation where they become weak with hunger and they just with the current,” the BFAR chief explained.

Another possibility, he said, is that the pack has a sick leader.

He said there is a possibility of mass beaching if the supposed sick leader is not isolated from the pack.

“If the leader would beach itself, the healthy dolphins will follow him,” Sarmiento said.

He said that while he was on his way to the site, he is in contact with experts from the Ocean Adventure and the local government unit.

Sarmiento said they would have to come up with a strategy on how to isolate the leader from the healthy dolphins.

He said he had also asked the local government in Bataan to secure the site and keep off fishermen who might see an opportunity of the unusual phenomenon.

Sarmiento said as soon as he gets to the site, he will instruct BFAR divers to look for the pack’s leader.

He said the pack’s leader is usually the “oldest” and is “battle scarred.” He added that the leader usually swims at the end of the pack.