BFAR 'expecting the worst' for aquatic life in Taal Lake

MANILA, Philippines – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is "expecting the worst" for the fish pens in Taal Lake following the eruption of the Taal Volcano.

BFAR Calabarzon Regional Director Sammy Malvas said in an interview with DZMM on Tuesday, January 14, that as the volcanic activity continues, changes in temperature and acidity in the lake will likely be fatal for the fish.

Malvas said the most common species of fish in the lake is tilapia. Others include tawilis and maliputo. The Switzerland-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Sardinella tawilis as endangered.

BFAR personnel are currently unable to inspect the area as the Taal Volcano remained under Alert Level 4. They can only wait for the green light to go back, when conditions are safer.

According to Malvas, there are other instances of threats in the lake that the fish are able to adjust to, such as climate change. Although some are able to adapt to gradual temperature changes, a volcanic eruption is different – not only is there the risk of lethal temperatures, but also the presence of high sulfur.

Around 6,000 fish cages are at risk of being damaged, with production loss estimated at 15,033 metric tons.

With supply at risk, Malvas reported that Agriculture Secretary William Dar sent orders for BFAR to inspect other sources of tilapia such as the fish pens in Laguna de Bay.

When will the lake be able to recover? Should there be fish kill, Malvas said they cannot predict when the aquatic life will be able to revert to its normal state, since previous Taal Volcano eruptions lasted from within a day to 7 months. (READ: Taal 1754 eruption: Will history repeat itself?)

Vendors earlier braved the imminent eruption of the volcano to sell the last of their goods before orders came to evacuate.

Dar advised fisherfolk to harvest fish from areas not heavily affected by the volcanic ashfall, and secure farm equipment and machineries. Affected farmers and fisherfolk may also avail of a P25,000 loan from the government with zero interest. –

Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a researcher-writer at Rappler. Possessing the heart and soul of a feminist, she is working on specializing in women's issues in Newsbreak, Rappler's investigative arm.