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Government To Assist Lake Taal Farmers

PHILIPPINES - The government's Department Of Agriculture has announced that they will help fish farmers struggling after the Lake Taal tragedy by distributing water pumps and fish.

The Agricultural Secretary, Proceso J. Alcala, stated that the government will distribute an initial 50 water pumps to affected fish cage owners in Taal Lake, Batangas, that will help aerate lake waters and improve oxygen level.

The Department of Agriculture, through its Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), will also distribute over one million bangus and tilapia fingerlings to affected fish cage owners in Taal Lake and Pangasinan, once the oxygen level in their respective fish pen areas have stabilised and improved, Mr Alcala said.

Speaking at the sidelights of the 60th anniversary of the Bureau of Soils and Water Management in Quezon City, Secretary Alcala said the DA-BFAR will hold a consultative meeting next week in Batangas with bangus fish cage owners and local government officials to come up with long-term, sustainable strategies and measures to prevent similar occurrences in the future.

“What we need are permanent solutions. We can’t allow the same practices to go on after this unfortunate incident,” he said.

For his part, newly appointed BFAR national director Atty. Asis Perez said the agency is conducting regular daily monitoring of the situation in Taal Lake, and in the towns of Anda and Bolinao in Pangasinan.

He said the DA-BFAR, even before the fish kill episodes in Batangas and Pangasinan, has been issuing regular advisories, particularly on maintaining recommended fish stocking levels, proper feeding, and on maintaining water quality. They have also advised fish cage owners to ‘de-populate’ by harvesting their fish early.

Mr Perez said fish cage owners may temporarily keep their harvested fish for free at the DA’s Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) cold storage facilities in Navotas (which has a capacity of up to 100 tons) and in Lucena (with a capacity of 40 to 70 tons).

Mr Perez went on to disscuss the causes of the fish kill, stating that it was down to oxygen depletion and heavy rains caused by the unusual weather patterns brought about by climate change.

However he did note that in many instances, where the death toll seemed greatest, farmers had not helped themselves by having hugely overcrowded cages, against code of practice.

“It was found out that some fish cages had been overstocked and the depth of the fish cage increased from the prescribed five meters to 15 meters. These wrong practices exacerbated the fish kills,” Mr Perez said.

He said for closed water systems like in Taal Lake, the prescribed stocking density is 20 fish per cubic meter. For open waters, the stocking rate is 30 fish or more per cubic meter, depending on water circulation and quality.

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