A scuba diver in Batangas saw suspected dolphin body parts—which appears to have been precisely cut and intentionally discarded underwater.
In a Facebook post Nov. 2, Penn De Los Santos of the Batangas Scuba Academy said he went diving last week when he saw fish parts about 8 to 10 meters below.
De Los Santos spotted what appears to be the dorsal fin and pointed snout of a suspected sailfish, if not a marlin.
But it's the suspected dolphin tail, and dorsal and pectoral fins that proved to be disturbing for De Los Santos.
He noted that the body parts were all "cleanly cut with a sharp knife" based on the appearance. He, however, said he's not sure how the fish were caught and who butchered them.
"I almost cried," said De Los Santos, who's also an underwater photographer. "We all like seeing beautiful underwater photos but sometimes our diving experiences show us some of the saddest pictures."
As he was diving, De Los Santos also recalled hearing "a series of dynamite explosions"—in what seemed to be a case of dynamite fishing. He said this made him scared, prompting him to ascend the waters. He also brought the suspected dolphin parts to the surface.
"We noticed that some fresh blood still oozed from the dorsal fin when it was out of the water," he said.
The post has over 11,000 reactions (mostly "Sad") and 9,300 shares.
De Los Santos didn't mention in his original post when and where the incident happened, but told PhilSTAR L!fe it took place in Brgy. Hugom in the municipality of San Juan last Oct. 27.
The area is a popular tourist spot, and also has a fishing community nearby. De Los Santos said he took the photos in the parking area for fishing boats.
De Los Santos also told L!fe that he thinks the dolphin was a by-catch, since it usually feeds on sardines, galunggong, and other small to medium fish that fishermen typically look for.
Assuming the dolphin was inadvertently caught in the net and died out of water, he believes the fishermen butchered it and mixed it with their original harvest, in an attempt at a cover-up—before strategically disposing the mammal's body parts later on.
"What the fishermen will say is that since it is already dead and will be useless to throw it back in the water," he said. "(Kaya) kinatay na lang."
Following his viral post, De Los Santos told L!fe that his group held a meeting with the local Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office (MENRO). He said the office told him that it will bring the matter up to the municipal council.
MENRO officer Noelito Pasco, meanwhile, told L!fe that the butchered dolphin was an "isolated case." Pasco also believes it's a by-catch and fishermen don't really intend to catch one, especially that the law criminalizes it. Still, he said they will investigate the matter.
Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection Act, prevents willful exploitation wildlife resources and their habitats—including the killing of wildlife species.
The Department of Agriculture (DA)'s Fisheries Administrative Order No. 185, meanwhile, prohibits the catching, selling, purchasing, possessing, transporting, and exporting of dolphins—whether dead or alive. The order also prohibits wounding or killing dolphins in the course of catching other species of fish.
In the event that dolphins become by-catches, they shall immediately be released unharmed in the sea. Dead dolphins that are washed ashore must also be surrendered to the nearest DA office for proper disposition.
As for the apparent case of dynamite fishing that De Los Santos heard, Pasco said it couldn't have been committed by local fishermen, as they don't practice such destructive methods.
"Amin ang municipal waters, pero sa open sea, andoon ang tri-boundary ng Mindoro, Marinduque, at Batangas. Doon sila pumuputok," he said. "Karamihan diyan (dynamite fishing), identified na galing sa Quezon (Province)."
Last June, environmental group Tanggol Kalikasan sounded the alarm on illegal fishing activities in the bays of Tayabas and Lamon.
"Pinag-uusapan na ng council, kasama ng mga coast guard (ang gagawin), lalo na at naaapektuhan ang lugar namin," Pasco also said, though noting that it's a matter best addressed by the national government—especially that President Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr. is also the DA secretary.
De Los Santos said several groups also reached out to him, expressing willingness to educate local fisherfolk about marine protected areas, as well as help them learn about sustainable livelihood programs.
"[S]ana lang gawin ng mga nasa government ang trabaho nila. Kawawa ang Pilipinas," he told L!fe. "Nire-rape na ng Chinese, kinakatay pa ng mismong local fishermen."
"I hope our message to protect whatever resources we have left would get across more people and ignite the initiative to act," he added.
PhilSTAR L!fe also reached out to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for comment.