Red tide now wrecking havoc to shellfishes in 2 Pangasinan towns

LINGAYEN, Pangasinan — The shellfish industry in Pangasinan suffered a big blow this year when the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) again temporarily banned the eating, gathering or harvesting, transporting and marketing of shellfishes from Bolinao and Anda towns in western Pangasinan.

This was contained in a public advisory dated April 7 signed by Director Eduardo B. Gongona, undersecretary for fisheries of the Department of Agriculture, a copy of which was e-mailed to the Pangasinan provincial government as confirmed by its Provincial Information Office (PIO) on Saturday.

The advisory stated that based on the results of the red tide monitoring activities of the BFAR and the local government unit, shellfish samples collected from coastal waters of Bolinao and Anda, Pangasinan are now positive of red tide toxin.

Paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) toxin level in shellfish samples collected from the area, according to the advisory, is high at 78 to 90.

With this, the BFAR advised the public to refrain from eating, gathering or harvesting, transporting and marketing shellfish from the coastal waters of Bolinao and Anda until such time that the shellfish toxicity level has gone down below the regulatory level of 60.

However, the BFAR clarified that fish coming from the two towns are safe for human consumption provided that they are fresh and washed thoroughly and their internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed.

Gongona said the BFAR and the LGUs are continuously monitoring the coastal waters of Bolinao and Anda to safeguard public health as well as to protect the fishing industry.

Bolinao and Anda are two of the biggest producers of shellfishes such as mussels and oysters in Pangasinan, which are being shipped daily to Dagupan City and Manila

The red tide episode in these areas usually occurs during the extremely hot summer when salinity of the water is unusually high, a condition which enhances the growth of red tide organism called algal bloom.

These areas used to be red tide free, till in early 2000, said Dr. Westly Rosario, chief of the BFAR’s National Integrated Fisheries Technology and Development Center, based in Dagupan City.

He suspected that the red tide organisms may have been transported by ocean-going vessels passing the international waters near Pangasinan and by cargo ships bringing coal to the coal-fired power plant in Sual town from abroad.

The contamination did not yet reach Dagupan City which also produces oysters and mussels in smaller quantity in its rivers, whose water consists of a mix of salt water and fresh water flowing from the uplands. Leonardo Micua/