Red tide kills 2 kids in Samar; BFAR issues stern warning vs eating shellfish

TACLOBAN CITY -– The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has expressed alarm over the red tide phenomenon in Eastern Visayas that has already killed two children.

The BFAR regional office here said on Friday that red tide toxins found on May 27 in Irong Irong Bay in Tarangnan, Samar and Cambatutay Bay in Catbalogan City have spread to nearby Maqueda Bay, Villareal Bay and Carigara Bay.

Maqueda Bay in Jiabong, Catbalogan City, Motiong, Paranas, Pinabacdao, Hinabangan, San Sebastian, and Calbiga in Samar is a major source of mussel in the region. The area has been shipping shellfish to Manila for export.

Another rich source of shellfish is Carigara Bay in Carigara, Barugo, San Miguel, Leyte, and Capoocan towns in Leyte province.

BFAR Regional Director Juan Albaladejo said that a family of seven from Cagutsan village, Sierra Island in Catbalogan City were brought to the Samar Provincial Hospital and later to the Eastern Visayas Regional Medical Center after consuming penshell locally known as “sarad”.

An 11-year-old girl from the family died due to paralytic shellfish poisoning on July 17.

On July 20, another family from San Andres village also in Catbalogan consumed mussels for dinner bought from a village market. Two of their children were hospitalized after suffering severe stomach pain.

The five-year-old boy succumbed to dehydration at the Samar Provincial Hospital the same day.

The fisheries bureau asked local government units to assist in the information drive and enforcement of shellfish ban, which strictly prohibits consumption, trading, and transport of shellfish gathered from infested bays.

“It’s unfortunate that these incidents happen despite effort to warn the public starting from the onset of red tide recurrence,” Alabaladejo said.

“We reiterate our public advisory to refrain from eating, harvesting, marketing, and buying shellfishes and Acetes sp. from affected bays until such time that the shellfish toxicity level has gone down below the regulatory level,” he said.

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,” according to BFAR.

In the last quarter of 2015, Eastern Visayas region was hit by what the BFAR described as the biggest red tide bloom that has not been seen in more than three decades. Sarwell Meniano/PNA/