Whip-tailed Thresher Sharks Help Island Recover After Typhoon


In 2013 Typhoon Haiyan caused widespread destruction
in the Philippines, hitting Malapascua Island especially hard. While no lives were lost, livelihoods were
destroyed. It was the thresher sharks and the draw for
divers to catch a glimpse of one of the most vulnerable open ocean shark species that allowed
the island to prosper again. While thresher populations have declined more
than 70% worldwide, Malapascua and nearby seamount Monad shoal are famous for daily
visits from thresher sharks. Monad shoal is a very important habitat for
the thresher shark. They come close to shore, close to the seamount
to get cleaned. And that’s a very important relationship
that they have with the cleaner wrasse and the moon wrasse and many other species of
fishes. So a place like Monad Shoal is fundamental
for their health. Malapascua is most famous for the thresher
shark and divers from all over the world go to Malapascua just to see these sharks because
it’s the only place in the world they can be seen almost every day. It’s incredible how much of the lives of
people are related to the threshers. You can see it when you walk there, you can
see it in paintings, you can see it in murals, you can see it as logos of almost every dive
shop. It’s really something that they take pride
in. I learned how to make wooden thresher sharks. I think thresher shark important here in Malapascua
because it brings a lot of work to people here. It’s good business for me because lots of
foreigners do dive and if they see a shark, they buy wooden shark as a souvenir from here. For me thresher sharks are a gift to Malapascua. We’ve been doing our best to protect the
thresher sharks. It’s a constant threat when there are commercial
fishing boats fishing nearby. We’ve managed to organize a group of men
to patrol Monad Shoal and we call them “migo sa iho” or friends of sharks. They are patrolling monad shoal 24/7 just
to shoo away the illegal fishermen. Working around the Philippines you very often
come across thresher shark meat in the market. The meat is used locally with a very low market
value – less than a dollar per kilo in many places. The economic value of the live animal here
is much higher than a dead one in the market. While thresher meat is consumed locally in
the Philippines, the fins are often exported. The demand in the international shark fin
trade and the lack of adequate management of catch has led to huge declines. If unchecked the very sharks that sustain
this ecotourism will disappear forever. The Philippines is in a unique position to
advocate for the protection of thresher sharks globally because of the tourism value it has
in Daanbantayan. It’s just amazing how much of the economy
of the municipality is hinged on protecting these sharks and showing these sharks to tourists
that go there. This year, at CITES COP 17 in South Africa
the worlds Governments will debate whether to grant thresher sharks the global protections
they need. These sharks are worth more alive than dead,
and hopefully the Philippines, and all of the other CITES Governments will join forces
to properly protect them.

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