BFAR bans shellfish from Masbate’s Asid Gulf for red tide toxin

By Danny O. Calleja

PILI, Camarines Sur, (PNA) – The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) Bicol regional office has forbidden the harvesting, selling, buying and eating of shellfish species from the waters of Milagros, Masbate, specifically the Asid Gulf.

The BFAR-Bicol based here on Friday said it has imposed in the area the ban on shellfishes like tahong (green mussel), clams and oyster after the 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 the province and in as far as Metro Manila.

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

In a shellfish bulletin issued last September 4, the BFAR central office in Quezon City said laboratory results on samples collected from the coastal waters of Milagros, Masbate, “found paralytic shellfish poison beyond the regulatory limit.”

The bulletin also declared under red tide infestations, aside from the Asid Gulf, the waters of Dumanquillas Bay in Zamboanga del Sur; Matarinao Bay, Eastern Samar; Murcielagos Bay, Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental; and Balite Bay in Mati, Davao Oriental.

“We are therefore advising the local government unit of Milagros and other towns along Asid Gulf to enforce the ban to avoid the toxic and deadly effects of this phenomenon to consumers of marine food products, particularly shellfish,” according to BFAR Regional Director Dennis Del Socorro.

Other sea products from the area like fishes 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 PNA over the phone on Friday that all necessary measures in relation to the shellfish ban ordered by BFAR are now in place in the locality.

“I have already directed the local police to conduct check points to prevent any banned marine product from being transported outside of the municipality. Our seaborne patrol (bantay-dagat) has also been instructed to strictly enforce 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.

“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,” she added.