LINGAYEN, Pangasinan—“Bangus” (milkfish) prices plunged from P90 a kilo to P10 for a whole week at the end of June when news broke out that rotting bangus were flushed down Sual Bay, prompting the local government to consider suing fish cage owners for economic sabotage.
Nestor Domenden, regional director of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), said he had been consulting lawyers to determine how the agency could proceed against the people responsible for throwing their dead stocks into the bay.
On June 22, thousands of dead bangus were washed ashore along Sual Bay, prompting residents to complain about the health and sanitation impact of the decaying fish.
For six days starting June 25, the prices of bangus dropped, with traders selling a kilo for P80 and eventually for P10.
“Considering the number of tons of bangus being traded there every day, that’s a huge loss for cage operators who have been complying with the proper disposal of dead stock,” Domenden said.
At least 0.1 percent of a cage’s stock would die each day, he said, citing the average fish cage statistics.
“But with about 300 cages in Sual Bay stocked with, say, 50,000 bangus, that’s a 15-million fish population and 0.1 percent of [these bangus expiring] is a lot of fish,” he said.
Cage caretakers would collect the dead fish and bury these in a dump, Domenden said. But some stored the fish in sacks to be weighed down and submerged in the bay.
“So when a weather disturbance (Tropical Depression ‘Fabian’) came that week, the water became rough, scattering the dead bangus,” Domenden said.
“All the while, we thought that they were all fully compliant [with the rules on disposing of dead stock] because these are farm-registered cages,” he said.
He said he had instructed the agency’s farm inspectors to determine from which cages in Sual Bay the dead fish came.
“I have also talked with the Sual municipal agricultural officer [to remind them] that they have to do something about it and if possible, include [fish stock dumping] as a basis for canceling business permits,” he said.