TAGBILARAN CITY – “Pasipiko” is the first whale shark in Asia to have been identified in two different countries, thus, becomes the “first international photographic match in Asia,” Large Marine Vertebrate (LAMAVE) said in its e-mail to Bohol News Today recently.
“This whale shark was caught in fishing net in Taiwan in 2012 and successfully released. Less than one year later “Pasipiko” was photographed by the researchers of the Large Marine Vertebrates Project Philippines in the waters of Southern Leyte,” it said
The whale shark named “Pasipiko” is tagged as P-545 made a 1600km+ journey between countries. “This underlines the importance of scientific research and the need to strengthen international protection for these endangered species.”
LAMAVE, anon-profit organization who conducts research in the country, particularly Bohol, said that “Pasipiko” was first identified in Taiwan by Dr Hua Hsun Hsu from the George Chen Shark Research Centre at the National Taiwan Ocean University. It has has been re-sighted by whale shark researchers from the Large Marine Vertebrate Project in the Philippines over 1600 km away.
“It is the first international match between Asian countries using photo-identification, a technique that enables scientists to identify individual whale sharks by photographing their unique spot pattern. Similar to a human fingerprint the spot pattern of each shark is thought to be unique to every individual and the match highlights the importance of the technique globally as a research tool,” LAMAVE said.
The whale shark first came to Dr Hua Hsun Hsu attention after it became entangled in a Taiwanese fishing net; he identified the individual as a juvenile male whale shark, measuring 5.4m with the top of its tail missing. Before releasing the shark, he and his team attached a small plastic tag with a number panel to the shark’s dorsal fin to aid future identification. The shark was released from the net in Don-Au, Yilan on the 31st of May 2012.
A year later, on the 6th of April 2013, researchers working for the Non-Government-Organization (NGO) Physalus on their LAMAVE projects re-sighted the shark in the waters of Sogod Bay, Southern Leyte, Philippines.
The team have been studying whale sharks in the Bohol Sea since 2011 as part of Physalus’ nationwide study on the status of the whale shark population in the Philippines. The whale shark, identified internationally as P-545 and renamed “Pasipiko” (Pacific Ocean in Tagalog, Philippines language) was the 30th shark identified by the research team in this remote area and the 545th whale shark to be identified in the Philippines.
The team saw the shark for only a few minutes before it disappeared into the deep, but it was enough time to take a photo-ID of the body and to notice the small plastic attachment on the sharks’ dorsal fin, LAMAVE said.