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Tilapia prices seen to reach P120 per kilogram.

Up to 50 tons of fish had gone to waste during a fishkill that struck Lake Sebu in South Cotabato province which started last week and is leading to an increase in prices of tilapia as a result of lack of supply.

The fishkill, the third major case to hit South Cotabato this year, was first detected on Thursday last week when tilapia cage operators noticed their fish turn belly up and die. There are now at least 200 fish cages in the area.

Authorities said they suspected the cause of the fishkill to be the sudden decline in oxygen level in the lake due to changes in the weather and temperature, like what happened in January, April, May and June when smaller fishkills were reported in the lake.

Vendors here said they expected tilapia prices to surge as supply dwindles.

Roldan Rebuto, Kidapawan City Mega Market Fish Vendors Association president, said a week after the fishkill, the supply of tilapia here had dwindled to just seven tons per day from the previous 10 tons.

Traders, who used to rely on supply from Lake Sebu, are now competing for limited supply of tilapia coming from Lake Buluan in Maguindanao province.

Rebuto said he expects supply to further decline.

He said tilapia prices had increased an average of P5 per kilogram since Monday.

Prices could go as high as P120 per kg if supply does not normalize, he said. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources said it is investigating why fishkills have become

a regular occurrence in

Lake Sebu.

But congestion caused by proliferation of fish cages

in the lake could be one of the reasons.

The lake's capacity is only 320 fish cages, but the num-ber had swollen to more

than 4,000.

In 2014, the South Cotabato provincial government launched an operation to dismantle fish pens but these were simply put back by unscrupulous operators.

Fishery officials also advised consumers against buying dried tilapia from Lake Sebu, saying it could pose health risks.

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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Oct 14, 2016
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