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Megamouth

Megamouth Shark #26 Stranded In Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines

November 4, 2004
Sources of Information:
TU Bagarinao
Curator, SEAFDEC FishWorld
SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department
Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines

A female megamouth shark 504 cm long and about 1 ton in weight was stranded on the beach of Barangay Namocon, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines around 5 pm on 4 November 2004. SEAFDEC FishWorld was informed of the stranding the next morning. I immediately recognized the very rare megamouth, and my heart skipped a beat. The megamouth is a recent scientific discovery, the first one having been caught off Hawaii in 1976 and described as Megachasma pelagios by L. Taylor, L. Compagno, and Struhsaker in 1983. The one stranded in Namocon is the third recorded in the Philippines, and only the 26th specimen recorded from around the world, according to Dr. George H. Burgess, Director of the Florida Program for Shark Research, Florida Museum of Natural History (http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu). The formalin-preserved carcass is now specimen AQDM2004 of the fish collection of FishWorld at the Tigbauan Main Station of the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department.

Megamouth #24 was still alive when it was stranded and the Namocon fisherfolk tried to push it back to sea. But it would not swim out again. Barangay Captain Fred Talaman called the media and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources. The TV crew of ABS-CBN News arrived at the scene and took footage for broadcast the next evening. Hanani Torilla of BFAR did not recognize the megamouth as such, and he advised Captain Talaman to bury the shark (generic local name, 'bagis'). Crowds gathered around the shark at the beach. The megamouth died at about 10 pm on 4 November. Hector Zayco, proprietor of Sol y Mar Beach Resort, near the site of stranding, called FishWorld the next morning.

I told Captain Talaman that the megamouth was a special and rare shark and that I would like to take care of it at FishWorld, rather than have it buried at the beach. So an outrigger motor boat was arranged and the megamouth was towed about 4 km from Namocon to the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department. Then it had to be carried by 16 fishermen from the beach to what I thought was a 'cold room' at the pilot feed mill. It turned out that the cold room was only airconditioned (coldest at 16 C) and was too small for the shark, and had feed ingredients that would be contaminated. Meanwhile, the 16 fishermen had to go, and the megamouth could not be taken across the highway to FishWorld. So now it lies in 10% formalin in a one-ton fiberglass tank outside of the feed mill. I will have it transferred to FishWorld once we find a proper container for it. It was so easy to decide to keep it, but the logistics of keeping it is turning out to be really difficult.

The first megamouth (5.5 meters long, male) recorded in the Philippines (#11 in the world), was caught in Macajalar Bay off Cagayan de Oro on 21 February 1998 and reported by J. Morrissey and E. Elizaga in the journal Philippine Scientist 36: 143-147 (1999). The second megamouth (5 m long, sex undetermined) from in the Philippines (#18 worldwide) was caught by set gill net also in Macajalar Bay on 6 January 2003. Both specimens were eaten by the fisherfolk.

Megamouth #24 was washed ashore dead in Tokyo Bay, Ishihara, Japan, on 19 April this year. For fascinating information and photographs on megamouth sharks, visit http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/fish/sharks/megamouth.

I had informed Dr. Domingo Madulid of the National Museum of the Philippines and Dr. Paciente Cordero of the National Research Council of the Philippines about the megamouth. I thank Dr Lawrence Liao of the University of San Carlos, and Dr. Kazuya Nagasawa of the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department for providing some information on the megamouth.

Megamouth #26 (stranded alive at Namocon beach, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines, 5 pm, 4 Nov, 2004; died 10 pm) being carried into the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department on 5 Nov, 12 noon.
© Tu Bargarinao
megamouth


Megamouth #26 (stranded alive at Namocon beach, Tigbauan, Iloilo, Philippines, 5 pm, 4 Nov, 2004; died 10 pm) being carried into the SEAFDEC Aquaculture Department after having been towed by pumpboat (5 Nov, 12 noon).
© Tu Bargarinao
megamouth


Megamouth #26
© Isidro Tendencia, AV Technician of the SEAFDEc Aquaculture Department
megamouth


Megamouth #26
© Isidro Tendencia, AV Technician of the SEAFDEc Aquaculture Department
megamouth