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Cugman villagers butcher megamouth shark

By Jigger J. Jerusalem, Correspondent .

VILLAGERS butchered a megamouth shark after it was unintentionally caught by a fisherman off Macabalan Bay Friday morning.

Villagers look as a man drags to the shore a megamouth shark caught in the waters off Cugman, Cagayan de Oro on Friday. (photo by John Paul Barsopia)

The deepwater shark (Megachasma pelagios) may have been ventured to shallower waters to look for food, a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) officer in the region said.

BFAR Region 10 fishing regulation officer Cheryl Magante said the megamouth shark weighed some 400 kilograms, was 3.048 meters long, and a meter wide.

According to oceana.org, the megamouth shark is a rare shark and a large species, and is the smallest of the three species of filter-feeding sharks. Its weight can reach up to 1,215 kilograms.

She said it was still alive when it got entangled in the fishing net of a fisherman in Barangay Cugman.

“It was wounded and was still alive when it got trapped in the net,” Magante said, quoting the fisherman.

But when BFAR officials arrived, residents have already butchered the megamouth shark and sliced its flesh, she said.

Magante said that based on Republic Act 8550 or Fisheries Code of 1998, the killing of megamouth sharks is prohibited.

But she said BFAR has not taken any legal action because they have not identified exactly who killed it, and who partook of its flesh.

Magante said megamouth sharks are also considered endangered species, and catching, transporting and killing them would be considered a criminal offense under Philippine laws.

BFAR was only able to recover about half of the megamouth shark and its tail, which they buried in Barangay Kauswagan.

She said it was possible that the megamouth shark was following the trail of krills, one of its foods, when it got caught in the fishing net.

Although megamouth sharks can usually be found in deep waters, some of them were seen in shallower waters in recent months.

“Earlier this year, a group of seven or eight megamouth sharks were sighted just near the shore of Cugman,” Magante said.

In the past years, megamouth sharks and whale sharks, locally known as “tawiki,” were sighted in Macajalar Bay and nearby municipal waters.

In fact, in the coastal municipality of Talisayan in Misamis Oriental, the townspeople used to celebrate the “Tawiki Festival” due to the abundance of whale sharks in the area.

The people of Talisayan call megamouth sharks as “tanguy tanguy,” a local mushroom, because of its soft body similar to that variety of fungus, said photographer and writer Elson Elizaga in his blog article about megamouth sharks.

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