Massive fishkill in Lake Sebu leads to decline in fish sales
KIDAPAWAN City, Philippines—Tilapia fish vendors have complained of slow sales here starting Thursday following a massive fishkill in Lake Sebu in South Cotabato.
South Cotabato Governor Arthur Pinggoy told the Inquirer in Koronadal City that the fishkill from July 24 to 27 left fish in over 50 cages dead.
The South Cotabato provincial agriculture office said at least 13 metric tons of tilapia, valued at P1.04 million, had been wasted.
Lake Sebu is Central Mindanao’s major tilapia producer.
Antonio Baliguat, a tilapia fish vendor in the city, said consumers have been shying away from the popular fish for fear these were part of the fishkill.
He said he had tried to explain to buyers that although the tilapia he sold came from Lake Sebu, these were not from the fishkill.
“I used to sell at least 30 kilograms of tilapia a day. But after the reported fishkill, I am lucky if I could sell 10 kilograms,” Baliguat lamented.
Baliguat said he was thinking of stopping selling “while the fishkill in Lake Sebu is not yet resolved.”
Baliguat said consumers were so afraid of buying tilapia that they shy away even from those cultured in Lake Buluan in Maguindanao.
Winnie Daduros, a regular tilapia buyer, said he would rather stop eating tilapia until the fishkill problem had been addressed. “It is better to be cautious than make my family suffer the consequences,” Daduros said.
Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte had earlier said the agriculture department and the Department of Science and Technology were investigating the latest fishkill in South Cotabato.
Ms. Valte also assured the affected fish pen operators of government help through fingerlings dispersal.
Lake Sebu Mayor Antonio Fungan explained that fishkill in his town was an “annual occurrence,” which locals call “kamahong.”
He said the water temperature normally rises during this period and kills the tilapia.
“We have advised the people not to eat dead fish for health reasons,” Fungan said.
The provincial agriculture office said the oxygen level at Lake Sebu had been depleted because of overstocking and water pollution, probably from fish feeds.
Fungan said fish cage operators were asked to temporarily stop feeding their surviving fish for at least a week to allow the water’s oxygen level to normalize.—Williamor Magbanua and Jeoffrey Maitem, Inquirer Mindanao
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.