Fish kill in Lake Sebu: at least 10-M peso worth of tilapia dead

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 14 January) — Another fish kill has ravaged portions of Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province in the past several days, destroying at least 10 million pesos worth of tilapia. 

Jose Rudy Muyco, deputy lake warden, said on Saturday that some 1,340 fish cages situated in around 20 hectares of the 354-hectare lake in Barangays Poblacion and Bacdulong have been affected by the fish kill, which has forced fish cage operators to conduct massive emergency harvest.

Data released by the municipal government of Lake Sebu on Friday afternoon said some143,571 kilos of fish have been killed, with a market value of P10,049,970.

“The severe fish kill started four days ago (Tuesday) but there were already minimal occurrences as early as Jan. 1,” Muyco said in a telephone interview. 

In the second week of December, he said minimal fish kills were also reported in some fish cages within the lake. 

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, the lake warden, talks about the fish kill in Lake Sebu, South Cotabato in this photo taken on 20 October 2013. MindaNews file photo by BONG SARMIENTO

He said the situation, which usually happens during the rainy season, was mainly caused by “kemohung” or “kamahong,” a phenomenon characterized by the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lakes’ waters.

It was the result of eutrophication, which “occurs when a body of water receives an excessive nutrient load and results in an overgrowth of algae or algal bloom,” he said.

“The lake is the water basin of around 1,700 surrounding lots. The water runoff that goes to the lake causes algal blooms, which eventually die and decompose, and trigger oxygen depletion in the water,” Muyco explained.

Muyco said they are closely monitoring the situation in other parts of Lake Sebu as directed by Mayor Floro Gandam.

He said the emergency harvests are ongoing in the unaffected fish cages but are affected by the intermittent rains. 

Citing their monitoring, he said the price of live big tilapia remained at P120 to P135 per kilo while the smaller ones are sold from P30 to P70 a kilo.

“The selling of dead tilapia is prohibited so these (live tilapia) are safe to consume,” he said.

Muyco added that they have prepared the necessary recommendations for the possible calamity declaration as a result of the fish kill.

In January 2021, over 20 million worth of tilapia were destroyed in a fish kill also triggered by “kemohung.” 

In 2017, a series of major fish kills hit portions of mountain lake, destroying some 1.4 million kilos of tilapia valued at around PHP126 million. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)