Lake Sebu LGU spearheads cleanup drive following fish kill

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 10 Feb) – The municipal government of Lake Sebu launched on Friday a massive cleanup of its critical main lake following the worst fish kill in the area in recent years.

Rudy Muyco, lake warden of Lake Sebu, said the “general cleanup” of the lake is part of the initial interventions set by the local government to address the fish kill, which destroyed P126 million worth of tilapia.

He said the cleanup, which started on Friday morning, is spearheaded by the municipal government and supported by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Environmental Management Bureau in Region 12.

Hundreds of volunteers composed of fish cage operators and workers, students and community residents had signed up to join the cleanup drive.

“The cleanup activities will continue until the lake is eventually cleared of water hyacinths and organic matter wastes,” Muyco said.

The municipal government of Lake Sebu placed the entire municipality under a state of calamity on Wednesday as a result of the fish kill from Jan. 27 to Feb. 4.

It destroyed around 1.4 million tons of tilapia from 4,944 fish cages owned by 464 operators situated in Barangays Poblacion, Takonel and Bacdulong.

Experts noted that the overcrowding of fish cages at the lake, the proliferation of water hyacinths and the use of commercial feeds by operators have caused its waters to deteriorate, triggering fish kills.

They were blamed for the occurrence of “kamahong,” a phenomenon that is mainly caused by the sudden rise in the water’s temperature.

“Kamahong,” which usually occurs during the rainy season, triggers the rise of sulfuric acid in the lake’s waters that eventually cause the massive fish kill.

Muyco said they have established a catchment area for the water hyacinths or lilies and organic matter wastes.

These will be removed and transferred later to the vermi-composting site of the Municipal Environment and Natural Resources Office, he said.

He said some fish cage operators have also started to pile the accumulated wastes for processing as organic fertilizer.

Muyco said they are continually coordinating with the affected operators to ensure that the cleanup activities will be sustained.

So far, he said only about 50 percent of the affected operators have responded to their calls for the general cleanup drive.

He cited that they were having problems with some of the fish cages as their owners as transients or not based in Lake Sebu.

Next week, Muyco said the local government will conduct a series of meetings with fish cage operators and other stakeholders to discuss the recommendations submit by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Provincial Environment Management Office and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist regarding the interventions for the 354-hectare lake.

The three agencies mainly recommended a moratorium of fish cage operations at the lake of up to five years and the strict enforcement of the 10-percent limit of the lake’s area for aquaculture development as set in Republic Act 8850 or the Philippine Fishery Code of 1998.

Around 20 percent of the 354-hectare lake are presently occupied by fish cages or way higher than its carrying capacity.

“We will tackle these recommendations and determine the best interventions for the lake,” Muyco added. (MindaNews)