Numerous sightings of whale sharks or ‘butandings’ in the Philippines have been recorded over the years, and most recently, another 14 were found in Sarangani Bay, according to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Melissa Cristina Marquez, contributor for Forbes, reported that it’s now official: Philippines hosts the second largest known population of whale sharks in the world, which was according to Wildbook for Whale Sharks.

There are now a total of 16 whales in the country after the sighting near General Santos City last March 9. This record has been the official tally since 2014, stated DENR Region 12 officers in a statement.

“The recent documentation of whale sharks in Sarangani Bay made the Philippines as the second largest known population of whale sharks in the world, according to the Wildbook for Whale Sharks, a global online library providing visual database of whale shark encounters around the world,” DENR-12 wrote in a statement.

The Philippines overtook the second place from Australia, according to data presented by the Large Marine Vertebrates (LAMAVE) Research Institute. Meanwhile, Mexico still holds the number one spot with more than 2,400 whale shark population.

“The Philippines’ progression to the number two spot, highlights the global significance of the archipelago for this endangered species, and emphasizes the country as a conservation leader for the species in South East Asia,” stated LAMAVE in a press release. “As well as being a significant milestone worldwide, this is also a conservation milestone for the species in the Philippines.”

Philippine News Agency (PNA) has reported that Task Force Butanding-GenSan, a group responsible for the protection and conservation of whale sharks, recommended city officials to lead a proposed ordinance that could help in keeping the species protected and safe.

“This is because of some alarming findings of the task force research team of some propeller injuries and small wildlife deaths due to entanglement with fishing lines and nets,” the Task Force said in a statement.

“We should intensify our information drive to the community on the presence of whale sharks in the area and the prohibited acts as stipulated in Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources Conservation and Protection and other related laws,” said DENR-12 Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria. ,