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Fish abundance in Guimaras waters dropped 65%

December 7, 2007

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
The News Today,
Nov. 5, 2007

Marine scientists have recorded a 65 percent drop in fish abundance from the waters of Guimaras following last year’s massive oil spill that ravaged the island-province.

Dr. Wilfredo Campos, president of the Philippine Association of Marine Science (PAMS), said the studies conducted from two weeks after the oil spill until this year, showed the marked decline in fish abundance in the waters of Guimaras.

The findings of a research team headed by Campos was presented during the 9th National Symposium in Marine Science of the PAMS held in Iloilo City on October 24-26.

The studies showed a drop in fish density, biomass and diversity compared to the figures recorded in the same areas in 2001.

Fish density dropped from 1.5 grams per sq meter in 2001, to .8 in 2006 while biomass dropped from 26.5 g/sq m in 2001 to 9.3 in 2006. Fish diversity also was lower from 48.2 in 2001 to 35.8 in 2006.

Campos said the low figures were consistent in the 500-square-meter monitoring stations located in six sites in Barangay Tando and at the Taklong Island National Marine Reserve, both in Nueva Valencia town.

The areas are among the hardest hit by the oil spill after the M/T Solar I sank 13 nautical miles off Guimaras on Aug. 11, 2006, spilling almost 2 million liters of bunker fuel into the sea and triggering one of the country’s worst environmental disasters.

The findings scientifically validate the observations and complaints of fisherfolks and residents in affected areas that their fish catch has substantially decreased following the oil spill.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources and mangrove experts have also recorded the dying of at least 600 mature mangrove trees in Guimaras. Mangroves serve as breeding and feeding grounds of fishes.

Scientists have earlier said that the long-term and full impact of the oil spill on marine life in Guimaras would only be known after many years and would require continuous monitoring.

Campos said the oil spill could be the main reason for the drastic drop in fish volume in the affected areas. But he said they had expected that the impact on fishes would have been short-term because the mature ones could have had evaded the oil spill by swimming away from the affected areas.

“This could also be caused by other factors that we need to study further because the low figures are still there a year and a half after the oil spill,” Campos said in an interview.

He said other reasons could include, unregulated fishing, dynamite and other illegal forms of fishing.

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