DEPLETED LEVEL of dissolved oxygen caused the recent fish kill in Taal Lake, the Bureau of Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said, but assured consumers that the volume affected is minimal and should not affect the market price of tilapia.

“Depleted level of dissolved oxygen in waters of Barangay Buso-buso and Gulod in Laurel and Barangay Bañaga in Agoncillo, Batangas triggered a 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% were affected by the fish kill,” BFAR, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), said in a statement.

“The DA-BFAR, while expresses regrets over the economic losses of those who are affected, is confident that the incident which hit only 2% of the total number of fish cages will not cause general surging of tilapia market price. The agency assures the public that supply of tilapia will not be severely disrupted,” it said.

The tilapia stock lost was over 600 metric ton (MT), amounting to a total of P43.13 million, according to the bureau.

Aside from the effect of heavy rain, sudden change of wind direction, and intense heat, overstocking of fish cages in the affected areas contributed to the incident.

BFAR has advised fish cage operators where dissolved oxygen level is down to start emergency harvest for tilapias that can still be sold and to use oxygen pumps or aerators to alleviate the extent of the fish kill.

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

Meanwhile, militant fisherfolk group Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (PAMALAKAYA) noted that this was the third fish kill to hit the area due to the same factors.

“Fish kill is becoming the norm in Taal Lake courtesy of unsustainable aquaculture practices, which includes the incessant drive of fishpen operators to increase the number and size of aquaculture structures beyond the carrying capacity of the lake,” Fernando Hicap, PAMALAKAYA National Chairperson said in a statement.

“And its adverse effects are getting worse day by day, which can be seen on the increasing volume of fish killed every time this phenomenon occurs,” he added.

The group said this is an “ecological disturbance caused by the monopolization of aquaculture industry in Taal Lake without consideration of its limit” and called for the dismantling of a number of fish pens in the area owned by private individuals and big fishing companies.

PAMALAKAYA further said that priority should be given to the rights of the small fisherfolk who have been deprived of their traditional fishing grounds due to privatization. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang