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Strict screening to reduce fish cage operators in Lake Buhi

BUHI, Camarines Sur (Jan 22, 2012) — Starting this year, the local government of this town shall be very selective in issuing permits for fish cage operations at Lake Buhi with end view of salvaging the viability of the lake as a fishing ground by progressively reducing the number of cage operators that has ballooned to 1,037.

The Lake Development Office of this town is tasked to implement policy decisions to allow only local residents to engage in commercial fishing activity and permitting only 20 to 25 fish cages restricted to an area of 160-hectares, or 10% of the total 1,600 hectares of Lake Buhi.

The screening of qualified operators starts right this quarter when they renew their business permits for 2012. Buhi Lake Development Officer Ronel M. Leal said he shall also be strict in collection of fees, noting that only 30 percent of operators are in good standing.

In a display of political will in July to October last year, Mayor Locoste effected the dismantling of over 1,000 illegal fish cages and about 50 units of “baklad” made of 3,800 bamboo poles. This effort was part of his lake reform program that included the decongestion of navigational lanes and building of fish sanctuary and buffer zones in the lake banks of San Buena, Sta. Cruz, Ipil, Iraya, Ibayugan, Tambo, Cabatuan, Salvacion, Sta. Clara and Sta Elena.

Environmental agencies lauded the efforts of the local government to save the lake after a series of fish kills in 2008 and 2009 that resulted in multi-million peso losses. The said ecologic disasters are now attributed to pollutants and congestion that drastically reduce water oxygen levels .

The Provincial Fisheries Office of Camarines Sur recently reported that despite the removal of the illegal fish cages, the lake is still yielding an average harvest of 6 to 10 tons of tilapia daily.

Lake Buhi is the sanctuary of the smallest fish called “Sinarapan” or “Tabios” and it remains as the biggest provider of fresh-water fishes in Bicol, including the best tasting “Tilapia.” (SONNY SALES)