Lake Sebu fish kill destroys P20M worth of tilapia

KORONADAL CITY (MindaNews /12 January) – The latest fish kill in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato destroyed tilapia worth at least P20 million, officials confirmed Tuesday.

Rudy Muyco, the lake warden, laments the fish kill that recently hit Lake Sebu on Sunday, October 20, 2013, in Lake Sebu town, South Cotabato. MindaNews photo by Bong Sarmiento
Rudy Muyco, Lake Sebu’s lake warden, during a fish kill in 2013. MindaNews file photo by BONG S. SARMIENTO

Lake Sebu Mayor Floro Gandam said that 200,000 kilograms of tilapia in 1,000 fish cages were damaged by the fish kill in the 354-hectare Lake Sebu, where the town got its name.

Gandam added the affected fish cages belong to at least 250 operators and that they will receive assistance from the local government to help them recover their losses.

The fish kill was caused by a phenomenon called “kemohung” or “kamahong,” which is characterized by sudden changes in the lake’s temperature.

Often occurring during the wet season, kamahong triggers the rise of sulfuric acid that eventually lowers the dissolved oxygen in the lake’s waters.

Since Friday, January 8, the fish kill worsened, triggering the emergency harvest of tilapia that flooded the wet markets in the different parts of Soccsksargen.

Due to the fish kill, which was observed in the lake since late last year, farm gate prices of tilapia in the town went down to an average of P100 per kilogram and sold in the commercial markets from P130 to P150 per kg.

Gandam convened an emergency meeting on Monday attended by the different department heads and officials from the provincial government to address the impact of the fish kill.

The local government, however, did not put the town under a state of calamity due to the fish kill.

Christopher Ofong, Lake Sebu information officer, said the Municipal Disaster Risk and Reduction Management Office decided against recommending a state of calamity because some criteria were not met, including the condition that the fish kill should affect at least 20 percent of the population.

The fish kill affected at least 10 sitios in three of the town’s 19 barangays, Ofong said.

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.”

He added that the damage to the town’s tilapia industry is expected to rise as the fish kill continues to hit some fish cages, which cover 16 percent or 57 hectares of the lake’s total area.

Muyco 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 kamahong hit portions of the mountain lake, destroying some 1.4 million kg of tilapia valued at nearly P126 million. (Bong S. Sarmiento / MindaNews)