BFAR assures ample supply of tilapia amid fish kill

BFAR assures ample supply of tilapia amid fish kill

MANILA — The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on Tuesday assured there is sufficient supply of tilapia to meet the market’s demand despite the fish kill in Taal Lake, Batangas.

In a statement, BFAR said the depleted level of dissolved oxygen in waters of Barangays Buso-buso and Gulod in Laurel, and Barangay Bañaga in Agoncillo, Batangas triggered the fish kill reported on May 29.

“The total allowable number of fish cages in Taal Lake is 6,000 units. Of this, only 121 units or 2 percent were affected by the fish kill. This resulted to over 600 metric ton (MT) losses of tilapia stocks amounting to a total of PHP43.13 million,” it said.

Tilapia, a fresh water fish that has been cultured since ancient Egypt times, is a long-time staple in the Filipino diet.

BFAR said it conducts regular monitoring of water quality, including dissolved oxygen level in Taal Lake.

Last week, BFAR-Calabarzon issued an advisory for fish cage operators to closely watch their stocks after the agency noticed a drop in the dissolved oxygen level.

Fish cage operators in areas where dissolved oxygen level is down were promptly advised to start emergency harvest of marketable sized tilapia and use oxygen pumps or aerators to raise oxygen levels in the water as part of mitigating measures.

While heavy rain, sudden change of wind direction and intense heat can also cause fish kill, BFAR said that the overstocking of fish cages in the areas affected were observed, thus contributing to the depletion of dissolved oxygen in the lake.

The agency reiterated that the risk for fish kill can be reduced, if not totally prevented, if fish cage operators adhere to good aquaculture practices where proper stocking density and feeding are observed.

While expressing regrets over the economic losses of those who have been affected, BFAR is confident that the incident will not cause general surging of tilapia market price.

The agency assured the public that supply of tilapia will not be severely disrupted.

BFAR said it will continue to conduct water quality monitoring and will ensure that fish cage operators are properly advised and provided with the necessary technical assistance.

Meanwhile, DA Secretary Emmanuel “Manny” Piñol said the fish affected in the fish kill can be processed into fish-based fertilizers which was proven effective.

“I received a call from Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez this morning (June 3), saying that rather than throw away fishes affected by fish kill, we will now be working closely with some groups to process those fish into fertilizer,” Piñol said in a press briefing on Monday.

He noted there’s a company in Cebu that’s processing those and “we’ll be linking up with them not only for the fish kill incident in Taal but also future fish kills.”

“We will make use of the situation by making fish-based fertilizers,” he added.

Malacañang earlier ordered government agencies to undertake measures to minimize the impact of the recent fish kill in Taal Lake.

“The President (Rodrigo Duterte) has expressed concern about the fish kill in Taal, which according to fisheries experts is caused by sulfur triggered by the strong ‘amihan’ that accompanies an extreme temperature drop,” said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo in a statement on Monday.

Panelo said the President had directed appropriate government offices to “closely monitor the situation, particularly the water quality in Taal Lake.”

“He (Duterte) ordered increased vigilance over the prices and supplies, as well as the freshness of fish sold in the market,” he said.  Lilybeth Ison / PNA –