BUTUAN CITY, Agusan del Norte - The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) warned against harvesting and eating shellfish from Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur due to red tide toxin.
The warning published on the official website of the state fisheries authority included Lianga Bay as one of the areas positive for the paralytic shellfish poison that is beyond the regulatory limit.
The bulletin said all types of shellfish and alamang collected in the bay are not safe for consumption.
Meanwhile, fish, squids, shrimps, and crabs are safe for consumption, provided they are fresh and washed thoroughly and their internal organs are removed before cooking, BFAR said.
“Our regional office has already forwarded the shellfish warning to the concerned local government units in the area. This red tide in Surigao del Sur is the same that was also warned on December 2017,” said Andy Ordoña, information officer designate of BFAR Region 13.
Dr. Leona Victoria Nortega, officer-in-charge of the regional fisheries laboratory, said the culprit organism was the same in the December 2017 outbreak.
“Since December, we have constantly monitored the area and have been conducting water sampling every week and then send the result to our national office. The causative organism identified in the current red tide episode is Pyrodinium bahamense and it is around the waters of Barobo but since the town is part of the entire Lianga Bay, the warning is issued for the entire area,” Nortega said.
Ivy Doguiles, operator of Erve’s Seafood Fastfood in Lianga town in Surigao del Sur, said they did not know about the red tide warning.
“No one has informed us that a red tide warning had been up since April 6 so we had been serving our customers with seafood especially the much sought after shellfish. Unlike last year, we immediately pulled out from our daily menu any displayed food that include shellfish. This year we did not know about this new ban on the consumption and sale of shellfish,” Doguiles said.
The warning, Doguiles said, would affect the daily livelihood of fisherfolk in the area.
Shellfish like the spider shell or “saang” and the much sought after large oyster, known as “Tikod sa Amo”, are popular among tourists who visit the seafood restaurants in the towns of Barobo, Lianga, and San Agustin.
According to a report by Water Environment Partnership in Asia or WEPA, the rapid increase in population, urbanization, and industrialization reduce the quality of Philippine waters.
The report said "the discharge of domestic and industrial wastewater and agriculture runoff has caused extensive pollution of the coastal water bodies. The effluent is in the form or raw sewage, detergents, fertilizers, heavy metals, chemical products, oil and solid waste."
Red tide usually occurs when high organic loading from rivers drain into bays resulting in harmful algal blooms. Records from 1983 to 2001, a total of 42 toxic outbreaks have resulted in a total of 2,107 paralytic shellfish poisoning cases with 117 deaths, WEPA said.
The entire Lianga Bay in Surigao del Sur covers the municipalities of Lianga, Barobo and parts of San Agustin and Tagbina.