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Closure of fish cages in Balingasag town looms

By URIEL C. QUILINGUING
Contributing editor .

AN official of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said Thursday the agency may order a temporary closure of the 195-hectare mariculture park situated along the coastal waters of Balingasag town, Misamis Oriental.

“We have to stop production of bangus (milkfish) in Balingasag this year to allow the waters to recover from the environmental impact and prevent fish kills,” said BFAR regional director Teodoro Bacolod Jr. during a Talakayan forum at SM Downtown Premier.

But Bacolod has no definite closure schedule yet.

He said that aside from restoring the marine ecosystem of the coastal waters of Balingasag, BFAR-10 has to facilitate the availability of milkfish fingerlings that fish cage operators need.

He said BFAR has recently imported two million bangus fingerlings from Indonesia and these were already supplied to milkfish cage operators.

“Our request for three hatcheries for Northern Mindanao has already been approved, in addition to a satellite hatchery,” he said. “At five million each, we shall then be capable of supplying 20 million fingerlings.”

Bacolod’s revelations came even as the annual Lambangus Festival in Balingasag set May 21 and 21 has already been calendared as one of this year’s Farmers’ and Fisherfolk’s Month celebration activities.

Closure of fishing areas, as stipulated under the Fisheries Code of 1998, usually lasts for three months and is intended to allow the marine waters’ ecosystem to recover from depletion.

Meanwhile, the BFAR official said there’s stable fish supply in Cagayan de Oro and elsewhere in Northern Mindanao region, from the region’s municipal marine and inland waters and those from Zamboanga and General Santos fish ports. 

Growth rates in fish production in the region, however, has been on a downtrend since 2016, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority, in a recent news conference. Fishing industry’s contribution to gross regional domestic product plunged further from 2.9 percent in 2016 to 2.5 percent last year.

In PSA-10’s preliminary estimates for third quarter of 2018, fish production all over the region was placed at 42,033.41 metric tons which was a negative 2.16 percent compared to the same period in 2017.

Marine fish-cage third-quarter production, primarily milkfish, was even worse at negative 10.15 percent from 931.26 metric tons in 2017 to 836.70 metric tons in 2018.

In 2010, when there were 243 operational fish cages spread out in the municipal waters of five barangays, Balingasag Mariculture Park posted milkfish production at 900 metric tons.

But 109 of these floating structures were damaged Jan. 29, 2014 by typhoon Seniang and huge waves due to a tectonic earthquake that originated from Zamboanga peninsula.    

BFAR-10 estimated total losses at P134 million from damaged fish cages and floating structures, milkfish fingerlings and brood stocks, and fish kill of some 857 metric tons of full-grown milkfish.

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