LINGAYEN, Pangasinan: Dagupan City Mayor Belen Fernandez admitted the existence of illegal fish pens in some villages but belied the claim of some fishpen operators that fish kills are rampant in the area.
Fernandez clarified that the number has been reduced to less than 100 after she ordered the demolition of 508 illegal fish pens covering an estimated 7.8 hectares from July 2013 up to the present.
City Agriculturist Emma Molina told The Manila Times that illegal fish pens had been rampant in Dagupan before Fernandez’ term and caused pollution.
Molina said the removal of the fish pens has prevented at least 1.5 million bags of feeds and residuals from polluting the city’s rivers.
She added that Dagupan City has not experienced milkfish (bangus) kills since 2014.
The city, however, had dealt with lapu-lapu and malaga fish kills because of silted water during rainy season.
City Agriculture Office records showed the last known bangus fishkill in Dagupan City happened in 2006.
The city government has enlisted experts for clear rivers of pollutants.
Fernandez and Molina said illegal fishpen operations exist in the rivers spanning the villages of Pugaro, Carael, Calmay, Bonuan and Lucao.
Fernandez said she recently met with fish pen owners, who assured her that they will dismantle their structures after harvesting the fishes.
She added that she told them that she will order the dismantling of the fish pens if they fail to deliver on their promise.
A group of fishpond owners and fisherfolk have decried operations of illegal fish pen and fish cages that cause river pollution and siltation resulting in “massive” fish kills.
Alfredo Dawana, chairman of the Fishpond Owners Operators and Fisherfolk Association of Dagupan City Inc. said that as of August 20 this year, lapu-lapu and malaga fishes cultured in their fishponds estimated at more than P30 million were lost to polluted water.
Meanwhile, Molina dismissed as absurd the claim of some fishpond operators that up to P30-million worth of fish died because of polluted rivers.
She said if this were true, it would have been akin to a biblical event where dead fishes are seen floating all over.
Jaime G. Aquino