TACLOBAN CITY – A shellfish ban is up in six bays in Eastern Visayas as red tide toxins plague coastal waters, including a bay in this city known as a major source of clams for export, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) reported on Thursday.
BFAR confirmed that the seawater of Cancabato Bay here tested positive for red tide toxins. The bay is a rich source of cockle clams being shipped to Taiwan and Hong Kong.
“The toxin level is 946 cells per liter of water, way beyond the regulatory limit of 10 cells per liter. We have to strictly prohibit harvesting, trading, consumption, and shipment of shellfish from this affected area,” said BFAR Regional Director Juan Albaladejo in a phone interview.
The field office here is still waiting for a confirmatory test of shellfish samples sent to the BFAR main office.
“To safeguard human lives, we are issuing this warning as precautionary advice to the public to refrain from gathering, selling, and eating all types of shellfishes,” Albaladejo said.
Other bays identified as red tide positive are San Pedro Bay in Basey and Marabut, Samar; Maqueda Bay in Jiabong, Samar; Silanga Bay in Catbalogan City, Samar; Irong-irong Bay also in Catbalogan; and Cambatutay Bay in Tarangnan, Samar.
Red tide toxins have been present in different bays in Samar for several months already.
Among the most affected areas is Jiabong, Samar, the region’s top producer of green mussels, with harvest of about 200 sacks daily.
Each sack is sold for P1,500. The town has been losing P300,000 daily or over P2 million since the shellfish ban on July 12.
Jiabong serves as a central trading center from where mussels are shipped to Metro Manila, Davao City, Bicol, Cebu City, and other parts of the country.
If an area is red tide-positive, the fisheries bureau prohibits the public from eating, harvesting, marketing, and buying bivalve marine products and Acetes sp. (small crustaceans) from it until such time that the toxicity level has gone down below the regulatory level.
Local government units are advised to regulate the gathering, marketing and transporting of shellfish in infested areas.
Fish, squid, shrimp, and crab are safe to eat “provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly and internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking,” BFAR said.
Red tide is a term used to describe a phenomenon, when the water is discolored by high algal biomass or the concentration of algae.
The discoloration may not necessarily be red in color, but it may also appear yellow, brown, green, blue or milky, depending on the organisms involved.