Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Red tide alert remains over Masbate waters; shellfish ban on—BFAR
By Danny O. Calleja

LEGAZPI CITY, Jan. 28 (PNA) – Harvesting, selling, buying and eating of shellfish species from the coastal waters of Milagros town in Masbate is still forbidden.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) regional office for Bicol based in Pili, Camarines Sur, on Wednesday said a ban on shellfishes like tahong (green mussel), clams, and oysters is in effect in the area after its municipal waters covered by Asid Gulf was seen positive to red-tide causing organisms.

Asid Gulf is the primary fishing ground off the western coastlines of Masbate province and considered the biggest source of marine products marketed in Masbate province and reaching as far as Metro Manila.

Three other Masbate towns—Cawayan, Mandaon and Balud -- rely on this fishing ground for their fish supply.

The latest red tide bulletin issued by the BFAR central office in Quezon City last Jan. 22 said “laboratory results on samples collected from coastal waters of Milagros, Masbate, found paralytic shellfish poison beyond the regulatory limit.”

The bulletin also declared under red tide infestations the municipal waters of Bolinao and Anda, Pangasinan; and Mariveles, Limay, Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani, Abucay and Samal in Bataan province.

“We are therefore reiterating our advisory to the local governments of Milagros and other towns nearby on the enforcement of the ban to avoid the toxic and deadly effects of this contamination to consumers of marine food products particularly shellfish,” BFAR Regional Director Dennis Del Socorro said in a statement reaching here Wednesday.

Other sea products from the area like fishes, squids and crustaceans, however, are safe for human consumption provided they are cleaned thoroughly by removing internal organs and cooked well before serving, Del Socorro clarified.

Milagros town mayor Natividad Isabel Magbalon told the Philippine News Agency over the phone that all necessary measures in relation to the shellfish ban advised by BFAR are in place in the locality.

“My directive to the local police to conduct check points to prevent any banned marine product from being transported outside of the municipality stands. Our seaborne patrol (bantay-dagat) is strictly enforcing the ban on harvesting shellfish products from our municipal waters,” Magbalon said.

The mayor stressed that red tide is not a new occurrence involving her town’s coastal waters as this phenomenon has been experienced on and off in the locality since the late 1980s, the latest period of which in 2009-2011.

In September last year, the infestation re-appeared and lasted until Jan. 22 as BFAR’s Shellfish Bulletin No. 2 remained.

“It suddenly appears for still unexplained reasons and disappears after several weeks or months. The problem is that it severely affects the livelihood of our marginal fishermen, prompting the local government to institute contingency measures to avoid economic displacement of this sector,” Magbalon lamented.

Red tide is a marine phenomenon in which water is stained with a red, brown, or yellowish color because of the temporary abundance of "blooms" which is also called phytoplankton, or planktonic algae, which are single-celled organisms that move using a tail-like structure called a flagellum.

Studies show that these organisms also photosynthesize and it is their photosynthetic pigments that can tint the water during blooms, wherein under appropriate environmental conditions, various species can grow very rapidly, causing red tides -- particularly in marine regions with a temperate or warmer climate.

The environmental conditions that cause red tides to develop are not yet understood although, the same studies say they are likely related to some combination of nutrient availability, nutrient ratios, and water temperature.

It is also suspected that human activities that affect nutrient concentrations in seawater may be having an important influence on the increasingly more frequent occurrences of red tides in some areas where levels of nitrogen, phosphorous, and other nutrients in coastal waters are increasing due to runoff from fertilizers and animal waste.

Fortunately, Magbalon said, the municipality of Milagros and its neighboring localities have no history of red tide poisoning among local residents all those years, unlike in Sorsogon province when hit by the same contamination from 2007 to 2011 that reportedly killed 13 persons and hospitalized over 100 others after eating the banned marine products.

Apart from those casualties, the phenomenon also rendered temporary death to the 100-million-a-year tahong industry of the province, affecting five municipalities and one city around Sorsogon Bay and economically displacing about 8,000 families relying on it. (PNA) FPV/FGS/DOC/CBD/