BFAR: Mining, culprit to Matarinao Bay red tide poison

Tacloban City, Philippines - While weather provides the condition to the bloom of red tide poisoning in many areas in Eastern Visayas including that in Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar province, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Regional Office VIII (BFAR VIII) cites mining as the primary cause of its previous and current red tide affectation.

BFAR VIII REGIONAL DIRECTOR JUAN ALBALADEJO
Dr. Juan Albaladejo, BFAR VIII Regional Director, in an exclusive interview with Sinirangan News Plus said that mining is primarily a cause to the continued, if not, increasing presence of red tide toxins in Matarinao Bay. 

Facing the Pacific Ocean, Matarinao Bay stretches the town shores of Hernani, Gen. MacArthur, Quinapondan and Salcedo. 

MINING OPERATIONS ALONG MATARINAO BAY 

Salcedo and Gen. MacArthur had been a venue of spread-out chromite mining operations for many years. 

Mining sites have also been established in nearby municipalities of Llorente and Hernani. “Mining operations contribute to the spread of red tide,” Albaladejo explained. 

The BFAR regional head said that the chromite being extracted in the mining sites are from red soils. “Chromite is from red soil which is very high in ferrous sulphate compound,” Albaladejo said. 

“Ferrous sulphate is the number one food of red tide algae,” he continued. The state fisheries and aquatic bureau have already raised red tide warnings in many fishing grounds in the region including Matarinao Bay. 

Also affected are Irong-irong Bay, Villareal Bay, Maqueda Bay in Samar and Carigara Bay in Leyte. 

RED TIDE IN PACIFIC 

Surprisingly, Matarinao Bay is the only red tide positive that faces the vast Pacific Ocean while the rest are located in inner parts of the region thus the high possibility of algal bloom or the accumulation in large quantities of these aquatic microorganisms. 

Local communities and fisherfolks are still wondering how red tide could have thrived in a bay at the front of an ocean capable of cleaning its shores. 

But Albaladejo explained that the mouth of Matarinao is just too tight for the Pacific current to wash away harmful toxins in the area. 

“Ang problema sa red tide, once nag settle sa area, pabalik-balik nalang ‘yan (The problem with red tide is once it settles in the area, it will just recur),” he said. 

Albaladejo provided two theories how red tide started in Matarinao. “Posible may nag (shellfish) culture dyan na infected ng red tide so duon nag start (Possibly somebody cultured in the area with red tide infected (shelffish) so that’s how it started), he said. 

He also theorizes that the toxins could have been carried away by the current of Samar Sea and settled in Matarinao. 

To recall with, Matarinao Bay was infected by red tide for more than a year sometime in 2013 and in 2010. 

The fisheries director lamented that the algal bloom will be permanent in Matarinao. “Unfortunately the only way to cleanse the area out is through a storm surge,” he said. 

He cited that Kankabato and San Pedro Bays in Tacloban City were previously affected by red tide every year. 

“After Yolanda wala na akong na report na red tide kasi nahalukay ilalim at ang mud ay napunta sa land so posible nasama ang mga cyst ng red tide (After Yolanda, there were no reports of red tide already because the sea floor was stirred (by big waves) and the mud were carried away to the land possibly carrying the red tide cyst,” he continued. 

“It was unfortunate Yolanda happened, but it was a blessing in disguise,” he said. Red tide occurrences are expected to stay until the end of El Niño. 

“Pag La Nina na, bababa ang salinity ng tubig at lalamig, ang red tide doesn’t like that kind of environment ,” the director said. 

Meanwhile, shellfish ban is existing in all affected areas and BFAR is conducting frequent tests in the said fishing grounds. 

It already extended its market denial to Tacloban City, Catbalogan City and other areas. “Mayron pa rin mga pasaway (There are still hard-headed (shellfish vendors),” he said. 

RED TIDE DEATHS 

2 minors had already been confirmed as casualties due red tide poisoning in Catbalogan City. Albaladejo warned the public not to eat shellfish from the affected areas. 

He also advised the public against eating raw fish meats and cooking marine products with vinegar as it enhances the toxicity of red tide. 

If ever somebody is showing symptoms of illness due to red tide poison, the victim is advised to drink coconut milk as antidote. (Bryan Azura)
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