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DENR demolishes fish pens, cages in Taal Lake

Saturday, February 21, 2009 [ ]

THE Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Batangas provincial government demolished fish cages and fish pens in Taal Lake with the help of fisher folks in Batangas.

DENR-Calabarzon Regional Executive Director Nilo Tamoria said the Tanauan side of the 24,356-hectare Taal Lake in Batangas is now cleared of illegal fishing structures.

Tamoria said the DENR and Batangas provincial government demolished 30 fish cages and four fish pens with the help of fisher folks belonging to the Kilusan ng mga Maliliit na Mangisngisda sa Lawa ng Taal (KMMLT), the biggest federation of small fisher folks in Taal Lake, Batangas.

Tanauan City is one of 13 towns and cities surrounding the lake area. These include the towns of Talisay, Malvar, Laurel, Agoncillo, Santa Teresita, Cuenca, Alitagtag, Mataas na Kahoy, Balete, San Nicolas, Taal, Lemery and Lipa City, all in Batangas and Tagaytay City in Cavite.

Taal Lake, together with its volcanoes and islands, was declared a protected area in 1996 under the National Integrated Protected Areas System Act as a result of lobbying from different groups, including KMMLT, to conserve the area’s rich biodiversity which includes the “tawilis” and “maliputo.”

DENR Secretary Lito Atienza lauded the move saying the show of political will displayed by the local executives mirrors what should be emulated by other local executives that have a stake in the immediate restoration of Taal Lake.

“Taal Lake is a protected area and the construction of any kind of structure within the lake is prohibited under Republic Act 7586 or the National Integrated Protected Areas System, the prevailing law on the management of all protected areas in the country,” Atienza said.

Fisher folk have been blaming the presence of fish pens and fish cages in Taal Lake for their dwindling catch over the years.

The DENR-Protected Area and Wildlife Bureau said the lake’s endemic species, such as the “tawilis” and “maliputo,” were already under threat of extinction because of the overexploitation of fishery resources and the introduction of non-native species cultured in fish pens, which includes the tilapia that fish cage operators propagate.

Tamoria also said that fishes are attracted to the light fixtures installed in fish cages luring them to go inside the structure which uses fine-mesh nets, thereby trapping even fingerlings and juvenile fishes of endemic species resulting in the dwindling daily catch of fishermen in the area.

Laudemir Salac, DENR-Community Environment and Natural Resources for Batangas City, said none of the demolished structures were issued permits by the Tana­uan City government.

“The plan is now being finalized through a series of public consultations and the zero fish cage inside Tanauan’s part of the Taal Lake is already included in the city’s management plan,” said Salac, who is also the protected areas superintendent of the protected landscape.--Ira Karen Apanay


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