CDO ‘fish kill’ puzzles BFAR

By Jigger Jerusalem

September 4, 2017, 5:26 pm

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources-10 (BFAR-10) on Monday said it has yet to determine the cause of death of hundreds of “tamban” (sardines) that were found floating on a coastal village here.

Villagers at sitio Baloy, Barangay Tablon, said they started noticing what they described as a "fish kill" at around 10 a.m. of Sept. 3.

Rudy Gamo, 53, a fisherman in the area, said they were baffled upon seeing the dead fishes, which looked like white specks on the waters.

“They were glittering, but they were not moving,” said Gamo, referring to the school of dead sardines.

Soon after, villagers said hundreds of dead fish began to wash up on the beach. By this time, people began to collect the dead fish and some even brought styrofoam boxes for storage.

Villagers from other areas in Tablon also came and joined in the picking of dead sardines. People living near the shoreline said they immediately cooked the sardines, either by frying or grilling them.

As of Sept. 4, village officials reported no cases of food poisoning or any gastrointestinal disorder from cooking and eating the dead sardines.

But Dr. Jennifer Marie Rivero, a veterinarian at BFAR-10, cautioned residents from eating the dead fish until the agency could determine what caused the mass deaths.

Initial examination showed that the fish appeared to be in good state and the sea water contained no toxic substance, Dr. Rivero noted.

“We would highly discourage eating the fish, since we don’t know what caused its death,” said Rivero in an interview inside the BFAR-10 regional office in Barangay Macabalan on Monday.

Rivero said a fish kill could occur by the change of the quality of the water, illegal fishing practices, and the release of sewage of manufacturing facilities into the sea.

The village’s coastal area is the site of several factories, among them a corn processing factory and a dressed chicken facility.

Rivero noted there were reported fish kills in the past few years.

Nemfe Antigua, 38, a fish vendor, said she doesn’t think the fish kill was the result of contamination of or any poisonous substances.

“If toxic chemical had killed the sardines, then those of us who had eaten it would have already gotten sick. But there were no reports of such. I even fed my children fried sardines,” Antigua said.

Gamo, a fisherman, noted that since the operation of the manufacturing companies in Baloy, their catch has also dwindled.

“We used to fish near the shoreline, but not anymore. We have to go farther into the deep waters just to catch fish,” he said.

Gamo and other fishermen have also observed that many of them had experienced severe itchiness, and they suspected that the water discharged by a processing facility may be the culprit. (PNA/Jigger J. Jerusalem)