MANILA, Philippines—Residents in Talisay town in Batangas were apprehensive about eating fish following the massive fish kill in Taal Lake, causing a drop in the sales of marine products in the public market.
“Alam mo naman ang mga tao (you know the public), they think the fish sold (in the market) was affected by the fish kill,” said Talisay mayor Zanaida Mendoza, despite government advisories that the tons of dead fish were already being disposed.
Mendoza said they noticed the slow sales, specially of “bangus” (milkfish) at the Talisay public market on Monday, and estimated a 50-percent drop in the sales due to the fish scare.
“But they should not be (scared). For one, they would know if the fish is already spoiled. The gills of the fresh ones should be red,” Mendoza said.
She said by this time, those affected by the fish kill would be rotten already.
Aside from Talisay, the fish kill affected the towns of San Nicolas, Angono, Laurel, Balite and Tanauan City, with more dead fish plucked out of the water.
The fish kill, which was blamed on weather change, killed 752.6 metric tons of fish, mostly milkfish, in the Taal Lake on Friday.
Mendoza said they are still monitoring if the climate change-induced disaster had already ceased.
“This would affect much of the town’s income. More than half of our population depends on fishing as a livelihood,” Mendoza said.
Mendoza on Monday said that Barangay (village) Sampaloc, the hardest-hit area, had declared a state of calamity.
Senior Inspector Manuel Maligaya, Talisay police chief, said they are implementing a “strict directive” from the government to make sure that all trucks transporting fish products to the market are carrying only fresh fish harvests.
Mendoza said there were several other cages, mostly holding tilapia, that were spared from the fish kill.
“I don’t think anyone could or would attempt selling the spoiled ones because (the rotten fish) have really smelled bad by now,” he said.
He said government agencies are fast-tracking the disposal of the dead fish since prolonging them may cause health hazards to the people because of the foul odor.
About 300 metric tons of the dead fish were already buried in an upland area in Barangay Sampaloc and government is looking for some more landowners, who could lend their properties as space to bury the remaining tons of dead fish, he added.
Workers burying the dead fish were also required to wear a face mask, he said.
Maurita Rosana of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon) said the water in the Taal Lake remains unfavorable and may cause the fish kill to continue for a week.
She said as of Monday’s monitoring, the oxygen level is still depleted, measuring 3.71 parts per million (ppm) from the normal level of 6 ppm (oxygen level on May 27 was at 3.42 ppm).
The water remains “hazy” with a transparency measured at 1.7 meters (from the normal level of 3.6 meters) and the temperature at 31.7 degrees Centigrade as compared with the supposed “favorable temperature” of 28-29 degrees Centigrade.
“What caused the fish kill was the combination of unfavorable weather conditions, an overturn, and the deteriorating water quality of the Taal Lake,” she said.
Overturn is a process where the surface water is pushed down and the bottom water, carrying pollutants, surfaces resulting in the depletion of oxygen.
Given the conditions, BFAR advised fish cage owners to harvest remaining fish before they get affected by the phenomenon.