Dredging at Cagayan River depleting fish?

CAGAYAN fisherfolk on Wednesday said the ongoing river dredging allegedly for black sand mining in the Cagayan river has caused a sharp decline in their fish catch resulting in a deep cut in their weekly income.

In a statement on Wednesday, fishermen in Aparri, Cagayan opposed the Cagayan River Restoration Project, which they claimed is being used as a disguise for black sand mining operations in the area.

The fisherfolk argued that the dredging activities have destroyed habitat and disrupted spawning cycles of fish and other marine resources, including the aramang or soft-shelled link shrimps, the binnek and unnok clams, and catadromous fishes like ludong, which are all endemic in the area.

“Our catch has dwindled since the dredging began. The tonnes of fish we usually get are gone,” said Marlyne Bugarin, wife of a fisherman and dried fish vendor.    

Edison Palattao, another Appari fisherfolk, said the dredging operations have been non-stop and affected their fishing operations in the area.

“From what we are seeing and experiencing, the dredging activity is not following the designated area and time of operations in the river. The operations are non-stop even during the hours when we are fishing in the area,” he said.

“That is why our operations are affected and our nets are getting destroyed. The noise caused by dredging operations disturb the fish in the area, forcing them to go away, making it harder for us to catch them,” he added.

The fisherfolk claimed that their income from December 2021 to April 22 has plunged to a low range of P300 to P1,000 for three days’ work, which is nowhere near the P3,000 to P7,000 that they earned before the dredging operations began in early 2021.

The fisherfolk called on the next Philippine president to issue an executive order to stop the government-led dredging that aims to desilt the Cagayan River and make way for the construction of an international seaport in Aparri.

“What use will the port have when there is no catch? What use is development when there is no food? What use is development when the environment is ruined?” local parish priest Fr. Manuel Catral said in the statement.

Antonio Liquigan, a retired professor at the Cagayan State University, said the fish population in the Cagayan river could die or suffer from imbalance due to the strong pressure from the dredging operations.

“A sudden change of pressure and temperature will affect the fish, leading to their depletion. We know very well with our fishery laws, the placing of obnoxious substances and other toxic elements, disposing of it on the water is highly prohibited because it will lead to the depletion of fish,” he said.

“How much more, the effect of that strong pressure which creates a very strong current. We know very well the characteristics of fish – they go with the current and at that moment when the opening of that sucking device, they will be crushed. That is the direct killing of the organisms,” he added.


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