New fish deaths sighted in Taal Lake
BATANGAS CITY—Just days after authorities declared that fish from Taal Lake were already safe to eat following a massive fishkill that spawned an industry nightmare, hundreds of dead “bangus” (milkfish) were seen floating anew off three lakeside villages in Batangas on Monday, police said.
SPO3 Larry Aala, team leader of the Philippine National Police Maritime Group in Batangas, said his men estimated the volume of the latest fish deaths at two tons off Barangay Sampaloc in Talisay town and two tons off Barangays Balakilong and Birinayan in Laurel town.
“We counted only a few sacks full of affected fish this time,” Aala said, comparing it to the hundreds of tons of fish that had died the previous weeks and buried for safety reasons.
National officials have blamed the first wave of fishkills on abnormal levels of dissolved oxygen in the lake due to overstocking by fish cage operators and weather changes. As a result, fish cage owners, including those operating illegally, suffered millions of pesos from the mortality and as consumers shied away from buying their harvests.
On Saturday, Paz Manalang, acting regional head of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said the current level of dissolved oxygen in the lake water had stabilized but was still below the optimum limit set by the government.
The latest test conducted by the BFAR showed that the DO level in the Sampaloc area was 4.5 parts per million (ppm), or below the allowable level of 6 ppm, Manalang said. It was 3.8 ppm in Buso and 4.9 in Barangay Banaga in Agoncillo town, she added.
To avoid further losses, the operators have moved their fish cages to areas where the DO level in the water is normal or not below 6 ppm.
This was agreed upon by the fish cage operators and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, said Aala.
“Those ready for harvest were collected by the operators while those which could not be harvested were pulled to parts of the lake where there is sufficient oxygen,” he said.
Ginette Segismundo, Batangas information officer, said that in areas where the fish were “half-dead,” compressors were provided to supply them with oxygen.
Segismundo said that as of June 17, authorities have dismantled 281 illegal fish cages in Taal Lake–29 in Laurel town; 117 in Talisay; 69 in Agoncillo; and 66 in San Nicolas.