DA-BFAR Caraga sounds alarm on the status of Lake Himbang and Lake Nato of Esperanza
The Municipality of Esperanza is situated along the banks of the great Agusan River. Over the years, the river carved another path thus the once portion of the Agusan River was transformed into numerous freshwater lakes. Two of these lakes utilized for aquaculture are Lake Nato and Himbang.
On 27 May 2021, DA-BFAR XIII under the leadership of OIC Regional Director Dr. Nilo Selim Katada, warned that these lakes need to be managed sustainably through a municipal ordinance. Section 51 of Republic Act 8550 as amended by Republic Act 10654 mandates the LGUs to zonify not more than 10% of the total suitable area of freshwater lakes for aquaculture purposes. LGUs are likewise to initiate control measures to limit the establishment of fish cages and regulate its operation through an issuance of license or permits to operators.
OIC PFO Bimbo C. Lagare reported to LGU officials and fish cage operators that Lake Himbang has already exceeded the 10% aquaculture zone allocation. Recent survey revealed that of the 28.3-hectare total suitable water area of Lake Himbang, an area of 5.3 hectares has already been occupied by existing fish cages. Lake Nato, on the other hand, has utilized 1.4 hectares of its 28.4-hectare water area.
Dr. Leona Victoria Nortega presented the environmental impact on the current situation citing the latest water quality monitoring results of March 4, 2021. Data showed low dissolved oxygen in the two lakes and high concentration of carbon dioxide and ammonia particularly in Lake Himbang were noted. It was recommended to regulate the number of existing fish cages, lessen the stocking density per cage as well as observance of proper feeding management and appropriate distances between fish cage structures. During the discussion, it was emphasized that if current conditions are not corrected, massive fish kills will likely to occur in Lake Himbang.
With the presence of LGU Officials, SB Member Joseph Aguilar and Punong Barangay Clint Kevin Sunjay, expressed their commitment to pass the needed legislation. Moreover, Municipal Agriculturist Jose Zaldy S. Manug pledged that his office will act urgently to prevent the worst scenario similar to what happened to the aquaculture industry of Lake Oro where it is now abandoned and water lilies has completely covered the area.