Fish kill destroys 200,000 kg of tilapia in South Cotabato

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 11 January) – Around 200,000 kilograms (kg) of tilapia have been destroyed due to the massive fish kill in the last three days that hit anew Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province, officials said Monday.

Christopher Ofong, Lake Sebu municipal information officer, said the fish kill has so far affected around 1,000 fish cages in the lake’s waters situated off Barangays Bacdulong, T’kunel and Poblacion.

He said some 250 fisherfolk and 45 fish cage operators from eight sitios of the three barangays were directly affected by the incident based on the initial assessment conducted by the Municipal Agriculture Office (MAO).

Fish cage operators were forced to conduct emergency harvests over the weekend to avoid further losses, he said.

Ofong said they have not yet determined the value of the damaged tilapia but noted that it could reach around PHP20 million based on the prevailing average farm-gate price of PHP100 per kilo.

“That is just the partial damage report. The assessment is still ongoing in the affected areas,” he said.

On Monday morning, he said Lake Sebu Mayor Floro Gandam called an emergency meeting to discuss the impact of the fish kill, which was initially reported last Friday, and set the necessary interventions.

The meeting was joined by concerned municipal officials and representatives from the South Cotabato Provincial Environment Management Office and the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist.

Ofong said the fish kill, as reported by the mayor and the MAO, was triggered by the occurrence of “Kemohung” or “Kamahong,” a phenomenon that is mainly caused by the sudden rise in the water’s temperature.

“Kemohung,” which usually occurs during the rainy season, triggers the rise of sulfuric acid that eventually lowers the dissolved oxygen in the lake’s waters.

Citing results of the water analysis conducted by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Rudy Muyco, the town’s lake warden, said the dissolved oxygen of the lake was “almost at zero level.”

Muyco said the fish kill continues to hit some fish cages on Monday.

He noted the oxygen level of the lake “will naturally improve with regular heavy rainfall and eight to 10 hours of sunlight.”

In 2017, a series of major fish kills blamed on such phenomenon hit portions of the 254-hectare mountain lake, destroying some 1.4 million kg of tilapia valued at around PHP126 million.

Ofong said the municipal government is currently consolidating the available resources to assist the affected fish cage operators and fisherfolk.

Among those discussed during the meeting is the declaration of the municipality under the state of calamity to allow the use of its quick response funds to address the problem, he said.

“The MDRRMO and the mayor’s office will immediately issue the recommendation and report to the Sangguniang Bayan (municipal council) once the three affected barangays make their calamity declarations,” he said. (With a report from Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)