KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews/29 November) — The provincial government of Sarangani has launched an investigation into the dumping over the weekend of an estimated 20 tons of decaying skipjack and bonito tuna in Sarangani Bay.
Rolando D. Tuballes, chief of the Sarangani Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office, said the dead fishes were discovered floating starting Monday in the waters off three coastal villages of Maasim town, polluting a significant portion of its municipal waters.
But Tuballes clarified it was not a result of a fish kill.
“Based on our investigation, the fishes were caught using likom method (net fishing) by still unknown fishermen on Sunday,” he said in a phone interview.
The haul of the fishermen was estimated to be 30 tons, but because the fishing boat could not pull such large volume, they decided to slit the net to ease the load, he added.
Tuballes said some of the dumped tuna, which weighed as much as nine kilos each, were carried by a huge fish net that had been abandoned in the area.
He said the dumped tuna were initially seen drifting near the shores of Barangay Kanalo and were later swept to nearby Barangays Pananag and Lumatil.
Around 10 tons were recovered by the fishermen and loaded them to the boat, he said, adding they have no idea where it was brought.
Maasim Mayor Jose Zamorro has also ordered an investigation on the incident.
The dead fishes, which emitted foul smells, have been buried along the shore using a backhoe with the help of the residents, Tuballes said.
“The smell was so bad in the area right now and there’s a possibility that the decomposing fish might contaminate the immediate waters,” he said.
Beth Palma Gil, information officer of neighboring Maitum, Sarangani, said that dynamite fishing have been lately monitored to recur off her town’s waters.
Tuballes said the dead fishes were caught in the waters off Maasim town, dousing possibilities they were caught through dynamite fishing.
He blamed resource use conflict to have caused the incident, in particularly a policy which only allows fishing boats weighing three gross tons to fish 15 kilometers from the shore.
That boat where the dead fishes came from should not have been in the area because it was too big to be fishing in the municipal waters, he said.
He estimated the fishing boat to be weighing from five to eight tons, which already falls in the category of a small to medium scale commercial fishing.
He said the volume of the dumped tuna, which were composed mostly of skipjack and bonito, clearly shows that it was from commercial fishing operations.
The official said they initially coordinated with maritime agencies and fishery regulatory offices based in this city to help look into the incident.
He said they initially asked the municipal council of Maasim to investigate the incident and initiate the necessary legal actions against the owners of the dumped tuna.
“They should be held accountable for this because it has put our health and livelihood at risk here,” he said.
Maasim Vice Mayor Utto Salem Cutan assured that the local government will take appropriate actions on the matter, especially against the owner of the dumped fish.
He said they received initial information that the supposed owner of the still unidentified fishing vessel and the fish net that carried the decaying fish was from General Santos City. (Romer S. Sarmiento and Allen V. Estabillo/MindaNews)