Abstract: A well-maintained marine mammal stranding database can be an invaluable tool in understanding not only strandings but also changes in the marine environment. This study aimed to examine the following aspects of marine mammal strandings in the Philippines: species composition, temporal (i.e., frequency of stranding per year and seasonality) and spatial (i.e., frequency of stranding per region and province) variation, proportions of alive or dead specimens, and stranding hotspots. In 2008, a systematic collection of data on strandings, including out-of-habitat incidents, resulted in an initial 12-year database—from 1998 to 2009. A total of 178 stranding events were recorded: 163 single, 10 mass, and 5 out-of-habitat strandings, with an average of 15 observed stranding events annually. Twenty-three of the 28 confirmed species of marine mammals in the Philippines were recorded to strand, including first-recorded specimens for the Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), pygmy sperm whale (Kogia breviceps), and Longman's beaked whale (Indopacetus pacificus). The top five most frequent species to strand included spinner dolphin (Stenella longirostris) (n = 26), short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus) (n = 14), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra) (n = 13), Risso's dolphin (Grampus griseus) (n = 11), and common bottlenose dolphin (T. truncatus) (n = 10). Dugongs (Dugong dugon) stranded seven times since 2001. Strandings occurred throughout the year with frequency significantly peaking during the northeast (NE) monsoon (November to March) season. Overall, Regions III (Central Luzon) and VII (Central Visayas) had the highest number of strandings (both n = 27) followed by Regions I (Ilocos) (n = 22) and V (Bicol) (n = 18). The following provinces or local government units were considered hotspots based on high number of strandings observed at each area: Zambales, Cagayan, Zamboanga City, Negros Oriental, Bohol, Pangasinan, and Bataan. Sixty-five percent of all documented stranding events involved live (n = 116) animals. This high percentage might be linked to dynamite fishing (causing acoustic trauma), fisheries interactions, or biotoxins from harmful algal blooms coupled to their foodweb. These strandings in general validate the diverse marine mammal assemblage in the Philippines and reveal the various environmental threats with which they deal.
Key Words: marine mammals, stranding, stranding database, stranding network, dolphins, whales, dugongs, Philippines
Document Type: Research article
Page Numbers: 219-233