Toxic red tide found in 9 coastal waters of Panay

All types of shellfish like mussels or tahong and Acetes sp. (locally known as alamang or hipon) collected from nine coastal areas in Panay are not safe for human consumption because of red tide contamination.(PTV Photo)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor and Felipe V. Celino

Nine coastal areas in Panay island, particularly in the northern part, tested positive for paralytic shellfish poison (PSP) or toxic red tide, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said in an advisory on Saturday.

The affected coastal areas are:

Pilar, Capiz

President Roxas, Capiz

Ivisan, Capiz

Sapian, Capiz

Roxas City

Gigantes Island in Carles, loilo

Altavas, Aklan

Batan, Aklan

New Washington, Aklan

Based on the recent laboratory examination conducted by the National Fisheries Laboratory Division (NFLD) using the Receptor Binding Assay (RBA) method, shellfish samples collected from the affected areas have saxitoxin that exceeded the regulatory limit of 60 microgram saxitoxin equivalent (STX-eq) /100g of shellfish meat, thus, are not safe for human consumption.

BFAR said that all types of shellfish and Acetes sp. (locally known as alamang or hipon) collected along these coastal areas are not safe for human consumption.

The agency further warned the public to stop eating, gathering or harvesting, transporting and marketing all types of shellfish.

While fish, squids, shrimps, and crabs are safe for consumption, BFAR emphasized that they should be fresh, thoroughly washed, and have their internal organs, such as gills and intestines, removed before cooking.

PSP can lead to neurological symptoms, including numbness, tingling of lips and tongue, weakness, paralysis, and difficulty in breathing.

The Capiz Epidemiological Surveillance and Response Unit as of its August 23 data recorded a total of 32 cases of PSP. The youngest case is 6 years old, while the oldest is 87 years old.

The town of Pilar recorded the highest at 28, followed by Pontevedra with 3 cases, and one in Roxas City.

The suspected cases showed symptoms such as numbness, vomiting, dizziness, and abdominal pain, among others, after consuming green mussels or tahong.

A nine-year-old boy from Pilar town died, while 31 others are currently receiving treatment according to the Capiz Provincial Health Office (PHO).

Meanwhile, the province of Iloilo reported five suspected cases of PSP. Four cases from Balasan and one case from Carles.

Iloilo PHO head Dr. Maria Socorro Quiñon said that according to the IPHO’s Epidemiological Surveillance and Response Unit, the affected individuals had eaten green shells from Capiz before they were admitted to the Jesus M. Colmenares District Hospital in Balasan.

“Nagkaon sila sang green shells. Ginbakal nila sa Capiz and didto nag-suffer ang iban pagpalanakit sang tiyan, may ara man nag-numb ang body, taas ang blood pressure, iban may nagsuka. Ara gid ang senyales sang food poisoning after they ate green shells coming from Capiz,” Quiñon told Daily Guardian on Thursday.

While the victims have been discharged, it is yet to be confirmed if the cases are epidemiologically linked to the toxic red tide in Capiz.

Quiñon further cautioned Ilonggos to refrain from consuming green shells and shellfish from Capiz due to the ongoing risk of PSP.

“Refrain anay kita sa pagkaon sang green shells and shellfish nga halin sa Capiz mintras ara pa ang shellfish poisoning,” she said.