'Stomach-turning' stench of rotting fish engulfs Taal

Tons of rotting fish are washing ashore on Taal Lake, creating an overpowering stench that is causing nausea among many residents.

Batangas Vice Governor Mark Leviste said that the provincial government is currently stumped about how to dispose of the dead fish in one of the gravest crises the province has faced in recent years.

"It's a chicken-and-egg situation. Hindi pa namin alam kung ano ang uunahin --kung idi-dispose ba muna ang mga isda, o i-re-relocate ang mga residente," Leviste said in an interview with GMA News Online, adding that the government is still looking for a place away from the lake to dump the rotting fish.

Reporting from Talisay, Batangas, GMA News’ Rawnna Crisostomo described the smell of tons of rotting fish as “stomach-turning", relaying residents’ urgent appeal to address the mounting crisis.

In Talisay, tons of dead fish have been placed in a dump site in Barangay Beach, adjacent to residential areas, spreading a stench described in Tagalog as “masangsang," according to Crisostomo.

“The stench sticks to your skin and clothes," she said, having been assigned to the area for several days now.

An estimated 1,800 metric tons of fish have died in a massive and widespread fishkill that began last weekend, attributed to mismanagement of the lake combined with an abrupt change in the lake’s water temperature with the onset of rainy season.

Fish cages in the lake far exceed the limit imposed by local governments. The excess fish feed rots and becomes organic matter in the lake, consuming oxygen that the fish also need to survive.

Searching for dump sites away from communities

The effort to retrieve dead fish from fish cages isn’t going as fast as the fish are decomposing.

Leviste noted that some fish-pen owners have been illegally disposing dead fish, now considered pollutants, into the open water, creating more headaches for authorities.

In an interview with GMA News TV's "News to Go," Leviste said at least 40 metric tons of dead fish so far have washed ashore in the municipalities of San Nicolas and Agoncillo in Batangas.

"This will definitely not make things easier for us, especially sa pagkokoletka at pag-di-dispose ng isda," he stressed, adding that fish-pen owners should be more responsible so as not to aggravate the situation.

Dead fish released into the lake will still float and can be retrieved, albeit with more difficultly, Leviste said.

"Pero once na mabulok yan, 'yan ay lulubog sa ilalim ng lawa ng Taal. Kapag lumubog 'yan, magiging pollutant na 'yan, at magiging cause ng pagkasira ng lawa," he warned.

Leviste said there are no concrete plans yet as to what they would do with the recovered dead fish, but added that some ideas have already sprung up.

"Right now we are looking into putting it in a rural area, far from residential areas where people will be affected by the smell," he said.

He identified the municipalities of Rosario, Tanauan and Nasugbu in Batangas as possible disposal areas for the recovered fish.

Leviste also discouraged residents from turning the dead fish into by-products such as dried fish and fish sauce, which some have already proposed.

"Hindi namin hinihikayat na isugal pa nila ang kanilang kalusugan para lang makatipid," he insisted.

Some of the dead fish have already been fed to captive crocodiles.

He said the provincial government of Batangas has already set aside 10 million pesos from their calamity fund to help address the worsening situation, which has already lasted a week. – HS, GMA News

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