TACLOBAN CITY: A prolonged dry season this year has put the Eastern Visayas region in danger of suffering the worst algae bloom that has not been seen in more than three decades, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) warned.
BFAR Regional Director Juan Alabaladejo blamed the prolonged dry season this year and sudden downpours as the major factors behind the spread of red tide in the region’s eight bays and coastal waters, considered as a major source of shellfish.
Since October, BFAR has raised the alert over Carigara Bay in Carigara, Barugo, San Miguel, Capoocan, and Leyte towns in Leyte province; Biliran Strait in Naval, Caibiran, Cabucgayan, Culaba, Kawayan, and Almeria in Biliran province; and coastal waters of Leyte.
The red tide alert is also up over Cambatutay Bay in Tarangnan, Samar; Irong Irong Bay in Catbalogan City, Samar; Villareal Bay in Villareal, Samar; and Maqueda Bay in Jiabong, Catbalogan City, Motiong, Paranas, Pinabacdao, Hinabangan, San Sebastian, and Calbiga, Samar.
Red tide has affected the livelihood of thousands of fishermen in the region and a strict enforcement of shellfish ban is necessary to safeguard public health, the BFAR official said.
An aerial view of Samar Sea up to Biliran Sea shows the color of water has turned “copper red with a depth of six to nine meters, stretching up to a kilometer from the shoreline. This is the most widespread occurrence since 1983,” Albaladejo said.
The discoloration of seawater is triggered by massive population growth of a few species of algae that produce toxins.
Since November, the toxin found in shellfish harvested from contaminated bays has killed a seven-year old boy and downed 22 others in Leyte and Biliran provinces, according to the Department of Health (DOH).
The boy from the coastal San Mateo village in Carigara town died on Nov. 30 after eating univalve shellfish harvested from the bay contaminated with algae, DOH Eastern Visayas Regional Director Minerva Molon said.
In San Mateo village, red tide has also downed 16 people. The nearby village of Minuhang in Barugo town has recorded four cases of poisoning, with one victim still confined at the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center in Tacloban.
Two victims were also reported in Naval, Biliran a week after BFAR issued a shellfish bulletin, identifying Biliran Strait as a red tide-affected area.
Molon said that one death is very alarming, considering that there have been repeated warnings from BFAR.
The official has called on the public to heed government warnings not to harvest, transport, trade, and eat any kind of shellfish contaminated with algae.