PHILIPPINES : The provincial government of South Cotabato is seeking to suspend cage aquaculture operations on Lake Sebu for one year, after a recent episode of fish mortality resulted in the loss of tilapia valued at around PHP 124.5 million (USD 2.5 million).
Provincial Environment Management Office (PEMO) chief, Siegfred Flaviano, said the recommendation is in line with the needed intensive rehabilitation of the 354-hectare lake to address the worsening fish death.
The official clarified that the proposed moratorium should be set by the local government since the lake is classified as municipal waters, Minda News informed.
Flaviano also indicated that Lake Sebu is considered as overcrowded as the fish cages presently occupy around 20 per cent of the lake area that is way beyond its carrying capacity.
In addition, under the current Fisheries Law, only 10 per cent of the total area of inland waters can be intended to aquaculture development.
Two years ago, following a massive fish death that caused tilapia losses by around PHP 45 million (USD 906,000), the municipal government of Lake Sebu, in coordination with the PEMO, conducted a clearing of illegal or unlicensed fish cages in parts the lake.
Flaviano said the clearing and related structures at the lake should be sustained until the 10 percent allowable area is reached.
The head of Lake Municipal Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Office (MDRRMO) Roberto Bagong said the fish death affected some 4,944 dish cages owned by 464 operators in Barangays Poblacion, Takonel and Bacdulong.
The massive death of fish was attributed to a phenomenon known in the region as "kamahong", which is mainly caused by the sudden increase in water temperature. This event usually occurs during the rainy season, and triggers an increase in the concentration of sulfuric acid in the waters of the lake, which leads to the death of fish. FIS