Taal Lake fish kill 'starting' with bangus, agri chief says

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 20 2020 11:39 AM | Updated as of Jan 20 2020 11:57 AM

A local fisherman sorts out dead fish from fresh ones as they untangle their fish nets. The continues volcanic activity of Taal could cause fishkills for Bangus and Tilapia, the Department of Agriculture said. George Calvelo/ABS-CBN News

MANILA – A fish kill is "starting" in the lake that holds the restive Taal Volcano, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said Monday, as authorities accounted damage from a week of volcanic activity.

The fish kill for bangus or milk fish has started with tilapia set to follow as increased sulfur chokes oxygen out of Taal Lake, Dar told ANC.

Fish in the market are safe to eat as long as they are caught alive, Dar said. The Department of Health earlier warned the public against eating fish from the Taal Lake. 

As of Jan. 19, some 55,000 animals, including chickens, goats, cows and horses, have died since Taal eruped on Jan. 12, the DA said. Volcanic ash blanketed some 17,000 hectares of land in the Calabarzon area, affecting 16,000 farmers and fisherfolk. 

The total damage to agriculture in Calabarzon reached P3.2 billion as of Jan. 19, Dar said. 

The DA hopes to still reach its growth target of 2 percent this year with a "catch up plan" from other areas that could compensate for the losses in agriculture in the Calabarzon, Dar said. 

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The DA is ready to release at least 7 million Tilapia fingerlings once the lake normalizes. Oxygen and acidity levels could stabilize 2 months after the volcano stopped erupting, Dar said. 

The Taal Lake is home to many species of fish including the endangered Tawilis.