Lake Sebu hit by tilapia fishkill

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/30 July) — A tilapia fishkill hit scenic Lake Sebu town, South Cotabato’s summer getaway, affecting 13 metric tons of tilapia from 56 fish cages, worth P1.2 million.

Citing a report from the Department of Agriculture-Region 12, Benito Ramos, executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council, said the fishkill on July 24 to 27, affecting seven fish cage operators, was attributed to “overstocking that resulted to oxygen depletion and water pollution in the lake.”

The regional Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, advised fish cage operators in the lake to suspend feeding activities for a week, Ramos said, adding this would allow water flow to normalize and for better aeration processes in the affected area.

The regional Agriculture department office also extended technical assistance on the proper fish stocking per cage, he said.

Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan confirmed the incident on Saturday, stressing the fish kill affected only a portion of Lake Sebu, the town’s largest lake at 354 hectares.

Ramos claimed the tilapia fishkill in the town is an “annual occurrence” which locals call “kamahong,” a phenomenon that he said causes water temperature to rise.

“Residents should not eat the dead fish to avoid food poisoning,” he warned over Bombo Radyo.

Last week, 142 residents, mostly children, in Sitio Tinugas in Barangay Ned, a far-flung village in Lake Sebu, were reportedly downed by food poisoning after eating carabao meat.

Fungan earlier said the carabao meat eaten by the affected residents may have been contaminated by an insecticide.

The carabao owner reportedly slaughtered the animal after it became ill for unknown reasons.

Lake Sebu town is a major producer of tilapia in the province. Farm gate price of freshly-harvested tilapia is at an average of P90 per kilo.

Aside from Lake Sebu, tilapia is also raised in the town’s two other lakes, Seloton and Lahit. (Bong S. Sarmiento/MindaNews)