BFAR says heavy deposit of organic matters causing recurring fishkills in Pangasinan

DAGUPAN CITY, Pangasinan — Organic matters that had accumulated for years along the Caquipotan Channel, a body of water between the towns of Bolinao and Anda in Pangasinan, had made the area very susceptible always to fishkills, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said.

Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the BFAR’s National Integrated Fisheries Technology and Development Center (NIFTDC) based in Dagupan City, said the heavy deposit of organic matters in the bottom of the water was spawned by unsustainable aquaculture activities in the area for years.

At one area of the channel, the deposit of organic matter is measured at 32 centimeters thick and at another, especially the section from the steel bridge to Bolinao, it is more than one meter deep, Rosario said.

The Caquipotan Channel is the location of hundreds of floating fish cages and fish pens, all raising milkfish that need commercial fish for them to grow.

The commercial feeds unconsumed by the fish as well as the droppings of the fish in captivity are deposited in the bottom of the water to rot, causing pollution.

To date, the flushing out of water from north to south takes for sometime because of the heavy deposit of organic matters that are now decaying, Rosarfio said.

Rosario said that the biggest fishkill ever registered in the area happened in 2002, an incident which even caught world attention, prompting the Norway government to come to the aid of the Philippines by extending modern equipment and technical personnel who transferred improved fish farming technologies from their country to local technicians.

The equipment extended by Norway are now being used to help monitor water pollution in the aquaculture areas of Pangasinan as well as in other parts of the country, said Rosario.

He said following the advice of aquaculture experts after the 2002 record fishkill, the number of fish structures along the Caquipotan Channel was reduced a little bit but not substantially.

That was why in subsequent fishkills such as the one that happened last May 18, 19, 20 this year, aggravated by the occurrence of neap tide, fish losses were not as big anymore as the one registered in 2002.

Nevertheless, Rosario believes that the threat of further fishkill along the Caquipotan Channel will continue if fish farmers will not heed his call for moratorium of aquaculture activities there as well as the removal of heavy organic matter deposits.

Rosario maintained that because of years of overused, the Caquipotan Channel cannot accommodate anymore extensive aquaculture activities and must be allowed to rest for a while.

He repeated his earlier suggestion for the transfer of the fish cages in any feasible area in the Lingayen Gulf or in mid sea which is being done successfully in Norway that is now one of the biggest exporters of salmon.

Rosario also suggested that oyster props, beds and sticks be installed to replace fish cages along the Caquipotan Channel as oysters and mussels, which have high commercial value both locally and abroad, can help clean the channel of organic matters. PNA/