Fishing ban in 9 Mindoro towns stays–BFAR

The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) announced that the fishing ban in nine oil spill-affected towns in Oriental Mindoro will remain in place. 

The bureau came to the decision after monitoring the situation and evaluating contaminant levels in seafood samples from the affected areas off the towns of Naujan, Pola, Pinamalayan, Bansud, Gloria, Roxas, Mansalay, Bongabong, and Bulalacao. 

Fish and seaweed samples analyzed in March showed low levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contaminants. PAHs are a group of organic compounds that are formed from the incomplete combustion or high-temperature decomposition of organic materials such as coal, oil, and gas.

Exposure to high levels of PAHs can cause a range of health effects, including skin irritation, respiratory problems, and cancer.

Despite the minimal levels, BFAR recommended keeping the fishing ban in place until seafood safety can be confirmed. Seaweeds and other immobile organisms have greater chances of accumulating PAHs, which are harmful to humans and other living organisms. 

Because of that, the bureau also recommended retaining the harvesting ban on seaweeds in Caluya, Antique, “until further evaluation confirms that it is safe for public consumption.” 

Members of the Philippine Coast Guard oil contaminated materials on the shore of Pola. (Photo courtesy of PCG)

The BFAR gave assurances of continuous monitoring of the area to establish time-series results regarding food safety. 

Further analysis of fish and seaweed samples will be conducted to ensure seafood is safe for public consumption, it said.

While BFAR is fast-tracking the laboratory analyses, it said it ensures data accuracy that serves as the basis for its recommendations. 

The bureau promised to share its findings and recommendations with the public and concerned government offices as soon as the data is available. 

In addition to monitoring and analysis, the bureau said it has allocated P4.4 million-worth of livelihood assistance in the form of post-harvest technology packages, food assistance to affected fisherfolk, and support for displaced fishing groups. 

Monitoring, control, and surveillance vessels have also been deployed, as well as personal protective equipment sets and other materials for clean-up activities. 

 The MT Princess Empress was carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel oil when it sank off the coast of Naujan on February 28, causing a massive oil spill. More than 36,000 families have been affected in 163 barangays in Mimaropa, Calabarzon, and Western Visayas regions.

Boats deploy Boom install a boom to control spilled oil. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Coast Guard)

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