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historical hunting of cetaceans in the Philippines

For centuries coastal peoples around the Philippines have been hunting for large marine vertebrates such as whales, dolphins, whale sharks and rays. For the most part, this tradition has vanished with the modernization of fishing techniques, opening of markets, declines of catches and enactment of fishery laws. Where they do still persist, the illegality of the practice has shrouded it in secrecy making information difficult to obtain.

We have very little knowledge on the history of these fisheries let alone baseline information of past distribution and abundance of these species. This project aims to unravel the complex histories of how the fisheries for these large marine animals have evolved, its extent, how coastal Filipinos interacted with their marine environment and how they changed the seas as much as it has changed them. Through archival research, interviews, and catch landings monitoring, the project hopes to understand why our seas are what they are right now and how populations of these species have changed through time.

Knowing what our seas were like centuries ago is important in understanding the current situation in order for us to properly manage our resources. Data generated by this project will contribute to lacking baseline data on historical distribution and abundance of whales, dolphins, whale sharks and rays. It will also provide essential information in designing fishery management schemes that consider not only the status of the species but also the socio-economic effects to coastal communities in relevant areas.

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Sperm whales were hunted by Americans in the Sulu Sea in the 19th century



American whaling logbook showing whaling grounds in the Philippines.



Bryde’s whales were hunted in Lila and Pamilacan, Bohol for at least a century.



Dolphins were hunted in the Sulu Sea by coastal peoples.