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Armi Cortes Vice-President, Sales and Marketing Department, Manila Ocean Park RE: BELUGA WHALES IN MANILA OCEAN PARK Dear Ms. Cortes: First of all, congratulations on the successful Back to the Wild shark release program held on May 26, 2012, in Calatagan. Unfortunately, I was out of the country that weekend, so I wasn’t able to attend and witness the historical occasion. I am writing about information we received from a former employee of Manila Ocean Park (MOP) via a private message on Facebook. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, brought our attention to the news that MOP will again attempt to import dolphins and now beluga whales for an open-air attraction scheduled from 2013-2015. Civil society groups, led by organizations like Dolphins Love Freedom and Earth Island Institute, were successful in putting a stop to the importation of dolphins for MOP a few years back. Due to the amendment of the Fisheries Administrative Order 233-1 passed in late 2011 without a thorough public consultation, the Philippines can now serve as a hub for import and export of marine life—including marine mammals. The source also told us that MOP caught 6 tiger sharks, 4 of which died because the apex predators of the sea did not adapt at all to the tiny aquariums of MOP. The person added that the shark meat was allegedly cut by kilo and sold to the employees. We are reaching out to MOP on behalf of civil society groups who are planning to act upon these issues. We would like to confirm the information first, and at the same time encourage the facility to reconsider if the information is true. Beluga whales inhabit cold Arctic seawaters and live in family pods. Their current status in the International Union for Conservation of Nature is already NEAR THREATENED. In captivity, the whales’ behaviors are altered because they are unable to go on their daily wide-ranging undersea treks, 1kilometer dives, and annual transcontinental migration through frozen Arctic waters. They are unable to feed on mollusks, crustaceans, and fish near the bottom of the sea. They are also unable to use their highly evolved echolocation skills since sound bounces off concrete walls in a reverberation that defeats this fundamental mode of communication and survival. Moreover, the lives of beluga whales in captivity are dramatically shortened due to the stressful and chlorinated conditions. This may even be further shortened with the tropical and highly
polluted environment that Manila has. Just early this year, our very own Department of Health confirmed that breathing polluted Metro Manila air is risky.1 I am sure that if MOP’s plans push through, the facility would be providing the beluga whales their own small tank/s with marine chillers and a well-researched diet. But if the four out of six tiger sharks really did die, then it appears that MOP does not have a good track record and the appropriate facilities to keep large marine animals alive. Madame, I would like to respectfully assure you that we share the same vision to educate Filipinos, especially children, about marine life and its conservation and protection. I too learned to love the sea because I had the chance to visit ocean parks abroad when I was young. With the establishment of MOP, we need not go to Florida or Hong Kong for such an experience; we have one at the heart of Metro Manila. However, I strongly believe that keeping beluga whales in such disturbing conditions goes against the very principles of MOP. We would be happy to meet with you at your most convenient time to discuss alternatives and areas of collaboration, if necessary. Thank you and we look forward to your reply and expeditions action on this matter. In service of the Philippine Seas,
Anna Oposa Co-Founder, Save Philippine Seas email@example.com +63917-851-0209 Copy furnished: Mr. Jose Ma. Lorenzo Tan CEO, World Wildlife Fund for Nature-Philippines Resources Ms. Trixie Concepcion Regional Director, Asia-Pacific, Earth Island Institute Dr. AA Yaptinchay President, Marine Wildlife Watch of the Philippines Atty. Asis Perez Director, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Hon. Naderev Saño Commissioner, Climate Change Commission Mr. Guerrero Saño Artist, Dolphins Love Freedom
1 Andrade, Jeannette. “Breathing Metro Manila air now risky-DOH.” Philippine Daily Inquirer. 26 February 2012. Accessed on 1 June 2012. URL Available: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/151925/breathing-metro-manila-air-now-risky%E2%80%93doh
Dr. Ma. Lourdes San-Diego McGlone Director, UP Marine Science Institute Dr. Hilconida Calumpong Director, Marine Laboratory, Silliman University
Mr. Jacob F. Meimba Executive Director, Coastal and Marine Management Office, Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau
Presidents of environment-related university student organizations National print and electronic media outlets