Marine advocate laments tilapia release in rivers

A marine conservation advocate has lamented the release of tilapia fingerlings in rivers around Sorsogon province.

The advocate, who requested anonymity, is currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marine Biology in a university in Manila, said it will cause “devastating ecological consequences in the rivers of Sorsogon.”

The advocate tweeted that as a response to the provincial government’s recently launched project “Saganang Isda sa Lawa at Ilog” (Project SILI), which aims to protect the rivers to provide food for rural communities.

The project involves releasing some 300,000 tilapia fingerlings all over Sorsogon rivers. The first 20,000 fingerlings were released in Bulan town on Aug. 4 during the project launching. Another batch of fingerlings was released in Donsol on the following day, Aug. 5.

According to the advocate, “Tilapias grow and multiply fast, competing with native species for food; [thus, a reason sex reversal technology was developed for tilapia control]. Aside from that, they also eat the eggs and juveniles of native fishes. Once you introduce tilapia in a river or lake, there’s no way of getting rid of it.” “BFAR should’ve known that tilapia has destroyed many freshwater ecosystems in the country, particularly in Taal Lake (causing the decline of tawilis) and Lake Buhi (caused the decline of sinarapan, the smallest commercially harvested fish in the world),” the advocate added.

A few weeks ago, OCEANA Philippines, together with environmental and academic organizations in the country, sent a letter to the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regarding the rampant and deliberate release of tilapia in rivers all over the country. This action was prompted by BFAR’s inaction, after its meeting with the group to discuss this matter two months ago, the advocate said.

“How come incidences like this continue?” Is Governor Francis “Chiz” Escudero [not] aware of this?” the advocate said.

Anakbayan Sorsogon also opposed this project. In a Facebook post, it stated that experts recommend that tilapia culture should be done in a controlled area where it can be managed and not cause harm to the native fish species in the area. It also called for proper guidance from experts like marine biologists for the conceptualization of such projects.

“During this pandemic crisis, we can’t afford to create more problems,” the group said.