Tañon Strait IMMA

Size in Square Kilometres

5 371 km2

Qualifying Species and Criteria

Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin – Tursiops aduncus

Criterion B (1); C (2)

Spinner dolphin – Stenella longirostris

Criterion C (2, 3)

Marine Mammal Diversity 

Criterion D (2)

Tursiops aduncus, Stenella longirostris, Grampus griseus, Globicephala macrorhynchus, Kogia sima, Peponocephala electra, Pseudorca crassidens, Stenella attenuata


Research by Silliman University Marine Laboratory funded by the Haribon foundation and dissertation research of Louella Dolar conducted in 1995 led to formal proposals for protection of Tañon Strait. Presidential Proclamation No 1234 subsequently created a ‘protected seascape’ in 1998. According to this proclamation, the entire Tañon Strait is protected and all cetaceans are accorded full protection by local and national law. Since then the area has been surveyed extensively in 1995 and by different groups thereafter and most recently from 2014 that led to the identification of resident populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) and spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) as well as a high cetacean diversity for the regions with 14 species reported in the literature and 9 species confirmed in recent surveys.

Description of Qualifying Criteria

Criterion B: Distribution and Abundance

Sub-criterion B1: Small and Resident Populations

Data on Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins presented in Tiongson and Karczmarski (2016) meets the criterion for Criterion Bii. In this study, photo-ID data were obtained during 50 encounters between 2014-2015. Individual sighting frequencies ranged from one (n = 21) to ten (n = 1), with the majority of the 121 catalogued individuals (82 %, n = 99) seen more than once. Group sizes ranged from a solitary individual to ~60 dolphins, with a mean of 11 and median of 10 dolphins per group (±10.5 SD). Groups frequently consisted of all age classes, including calves and neonates, although adult-only groups were also seen. Inter- and intra- annual photographic recaptures of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins are reported in the poster presented by Tiongson and Karczmarski at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference in 2015. Their data illustrate the site fidelity of this small population.

Criterion C: Key Life Cycle Activities

Sub-criterion C2: Feeding Areas

Likely to be a foraging ground for spinner dolphins because 27% of ichthyoplankton count are myctophids in Tañon (Tañon Strait – Commission report). Moreover, indirect evidence from interviews of fisherfolk and uncommon direct observations of daytime foraging activity also support the likelihood of Tañon Strait as foraging ground for spinner dolphins. Foraging areas of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins have also been identified using kernel density estimation and local convex hull analysis of observed foraging behaviour (Tiongson and Karczmarski, 2017).

Sub-criterion C3: Migration Areas

The Tañon Strait has been assessed as an important area for the resting of spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) described in Tiongson and Karczmarski (2017). Resting represented the predominant daytime behaviour for spinner dolphins. Nearly half (48%) of their overall core area function as the core resting area. Although direct evidence of feeding areas of spinner dolphins are difficult to quantify, indirect evidence from interviews of fisherfolk and uncommon direct observations of daytime foraging activity suggest a likely probability that spinner dolphin foraging areas lie within the strait and perhaps in deeper locations where the mesopelagic layer is likely to occur. Under these circumstances, dolphins need to move safely between their resting and foraging areas. A population of approx. 3500 spinner dolphins was estimated in the Strait (Dolar et al. 2006).

Criterion D: Special Attributes  

Sub-criterion D2: Diversity

The Tañon strait hosts a high diversity of odontocetes, with 8 species reported in the latest work from Karczmarski and Tiongson (2016). This included Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus), spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris longirostris), Risso’s dolphin (Grampus griseus), short-finned pilot whale (Globicephala macrorhynchus), dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), melon-headed whale (Peponocephala electra), False killer whale (Pseudorca crassidens) and pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata).  From previous studies (Leatherwood et al. 1992, Dolar and Wood 1993, Bautista et al. 2003, Aragones et al. 2010) four additional species were reported, Tursiops truncatus, Lagenodelphis hosei, Feresa attenuata, and Mesoplodon sp. but these have not been sighted during the recent surveys. Survey from Dolar et al. (2006) in the Tanon Strait reported a high abundance of dwarf sperm whale (Kogia sima), the second most abundant species encountered during their study with 27 encounters and an estimated density of 48 schools 1000Km-1. The most common species was the spinner dolphin with 52 encounters and an estimated density of 117.5 schools per 1000 Km surveyed.

Supporting Information

Aragones, L.V., Talaue-McManus. L., Roque-Borigas. M.A.A., Amor. A.K.S. and Keith. E.O. 2013. Dolphin watching in the southern Tañon Strait Protected Seascape, Philippines: Issues and challenges. Science Diliman (July-December 2013) 25:2, 1-34.

Aragones, L.V., Roque, M.A., Buccat, M.F., Encomienda, R.P., Espinos, B.G., Maniago, F.E. and Laule, G.E. 2010. Philippine marine mammal strandings from 1998 to 2009: Animals in the Philippines in peril? Aquatic Mammals 36(3):219-233.

Bautista, A. and Buccat, M. 2003. Conservation of cetaceans in Tañon Strait. Unpublished
report. WWF-Philippines.

Callanta, L.S. 2009. Residence patterns and range characteristics of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) and other small cetaceans in the southern Tañon Strait, Central Visayas, Philippines. MSc thesis. Dumaguete: Silliman University

Dolar, M.L.L. and Wood, C.J. 1993. Survey of marine mammals in the central Visayas and northern Mindanao. Enviroscope. 7(8):1-6.

Dolar, M.L.L. 1999. Distribution, abundance, and feeding ecology of cetaceans in the eastern Sulu Sea and Tañon Strait, Philippines. PhD thesis. San Diego: University of California San Diego

Dolar, M.L.L., Perrin, W.F., Taylor, B., Kooyman, G. and Alava, M.N.R. 2006. Distributional ecology of cetaceans in the central Philippines. Journal of Cetacean Research and Management 8:93–111.

Dolar, M.L.L., Sabater, E.R., Gaudiano, J.P.A., Bagarinao, T.U., Sorongon, P.M.E., Barcelona, A.L.B., Tagarino, A.P., Daclan, J.M.O. and Santos, M.D. 2012. ‘Tursiops aduncus’. In: Alava, M.N.R., Dolar, M.L.L., Sabater, E.R., Aquino, M.T.R. and Santos, M.D. (eds.) Red list status of marine mammals in the Philippines, pp. 106–109. Manila: Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-National Fisheries Research and Development Institute

General Management Plan Tanon Strait Protected Seascape 2015-2025. http://www.tanonstrait.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/TSPS-General-Management-Plan-2015-2025.pdf

Karczmarski, L. and Tiongson, A.J.C. 2016. Conservation by design: establishing a framework for delphinid conservation in a tropical protected seascape, Tañon Strait, the Philippines. A report submitted to Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong. Unpublished Report

Leatherwood, S., Dolar, M.L.L., Wood, C.J., Aragones, L.V. and Hill, C.L. 1992. Marine mammal species confirmed from Philippine waters. Silliman Journal 36:65–86.

Tan, J.M.L. 1995. A Field Guide to Whales and Dolphins in the Philippines. Philippines: Bookmark.

Tiongson, A.J.C. Karczmarski, L. 2015. ‘Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in Tañon Strait, central Philippines: Early research findings and health concerns’ Poster presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2015, San Francisco, CA, USA.

Tiongson, A.J.C. and Karczmarski L. 2016. The Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops aduncus) in Tañon Strait, central Philippines. Marine Biodiversity Records 9:85

Tiongson, A.J.C. and Karczmarski, L. 2017. ‘Spatio-behavioural habitat partitioning by two sympatric island-associated dolphins in Tañon Strait, central Philippines’ Poster presented at the Society for Marine Mammalogy Conference 2017, Halifax, NS, CA.


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