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Monday, September 16, 2019

Editorial: Fish kill in Lake Sebu

LIFE cannot be sustained when humans focus on what they can get rather than how they can nurture, especially when the community thrives on what nature gives.

Like the tilapia ponds in Lake Sebu.

Those who have visited Lake Sebu in South Cotabato know that tilapia is practically the sole protein source of the community. Just about all restaurants and eateries there offer tilapia in all its forms to the thousands of visitors every year.

The default mindset then should have been, how do we take care of the lake so that it can nurture the fishers for generations to come?

But no. The focus has become, how much and how fast can we harvest tilapia?

Thus, the Municipal Government of Lake Sebu, the other day, was reported to be planning to declare the area under state of calamity due to another major fish kill which already destroyed around P6.5 million worth of tilapia.

According to Lake Sebu Municipal Agriculture officer Zaldy Artacho, the fish kill started last week. The “kamahong” is the state when dissolved oxygen drops to critical levels came after almost a week of sporadic heavy rains.

Initial count revealed that 72,335 kilos of tilapia have died from 19 fish cage operators. There are more than 300 fish cage operators in the lake.

Kamahong is a natural phenomenon caused by the sudden rise in water temperature, the fishery officials claim.

This occurs during rainy season when the sudden rise in temperature triggers the rise of sulfuric acid in the waters. But all fishpond operators know what triggers the drop in oxygen levels, beyond temperature... the density of the fishes and the cages.

Low dissolved oxygen is not only caused by water temperature, it is also caused by the degree and type of bottom muck, algae and aquatic plant densities, and amount of sunlight.

Given that temperature will change when rains come, then the other variables should be controlled. And what can be controlled? The bottom muck, which is caused by excess feeds and fish excreta, is one.

The common variable here is the fish. Just as there should be fishing ban on the sea, there should also be a season set aside for the waters to recover or at least not be as stressed all the time.

The local government officials by this time should be aware of this. The fishcage operators should also be aware of this.

The loss they suffer because of their insistence to harvest profit despite nature saying it cannot sustain life is what is causing them losses. Not the fish kill, per se.

This all boils down to local governments whose main industry is ecotourism to seriously study the carrying capacity of their towns and resources.

Charge more, if needed. Why not? We pay premium to go to exotic places abroad, why can't we not charge premium for what we have here? But along with charging premium is the community's responsibility to ensure premium experience as well.

They can continue doing business as they are doing now, but then they will be slowly killing the nature that has brought them attention in the first place, and before long, they will become just another wasteland of urban blight or rural abuse.
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