SouthCot pushes for moratorium on fish cage operations in Lake Sebu after fish kill

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 13 Jan) – The provincial government of South Cotabato is pushing for the implementation of a stricter moratorium on the operations of fish cages in the critical Lake Sebu to allow it to recuperate and prevent the occurrence of massive fish kills.

The fish cages of Lake Sebu. MindaNews file photo by KEITH BACONGCO

Dr. Raul Teves, head of the Office of the Provincial Agriculturist (OPAG), said Wednesday they recommended such move following the latest fish kill in portions of the lake that has so far destroyed over 200 tons of tilapia valued at P20 million.

The fish kill from Jan. 8 to 10 has affected around 1,000 fish cages maintained by 45 operators situated in eight sitios of barangays Poblacion, Bacdulong and T’kunel.

Citing their assessment, Teves said the incident was triggered anew by “kemohung” or the sudden drop of the lake’s dissolved oxygen.

The phenomenon, which usually occurs during the rainy season, caused the sudden rise in the water’s temperature and sulfuric acid, affecting its dissolved oxygen level.

But Teves said a contributory factor to the incident is the degrading state of the lake due to the overcrowding of tilapia fish cages and the dumping of wastes into its waters by residents, resorts and other establishments in the surrounding areas.

He said a combined 20 tons of tilapia feeds are reportedly used on a daily basis by the existing fish cage operators, resulting to the accumulation of sediments at the bottom of the lake.

Based on studies conducted by the Lake Sebu Municipal Agriculture Office, he said the lake’s depth has significantly decreased in the past several years from 64 meters to just 47 meters due to the situation.

Aside from this, he said they monitored households and small hog farmers situated in its surrounding communities dumping their wastes as well as resorts and related establishments allowing their wastewater to flow into the lake.

“This shows that the lake is not much different now from a septic tank and the situation, if not properly addressed, might lead to its total deterioration and make it the biggest garbage dump in South Cotabato,” he said in an interview over Bombo Radyo in Koronadal City.

Teves said the proposed moratorium on the fish cage operations is supported by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, Provincial Environment Management Office and other concerned agencies.

He said the municipal government of Lake Sebu, on orders from Mayor Floro Gandam, is currently conducting consultations and studies regarding the measure.

Three years ago, he said a two-year moratorium on fish cage operations and related activities was implemented at the lake but was recalled after six months.

The move was triggered by a massive fish kill then that destroyed some 1.4 million kilos of tilapia valued at P126 million.

“We really need to sustain it this time to allow the lake to breathe and recover before it causes a major economic impact,” Teves said. (MindaNews)