Authorities heighten ban on shellfish, checkpoints set up in Albay
by Mar Arguelles
Legazpi City (16 November) -- Authorities here have set up check points in boundaries of Sorsogon and Albay to check carriers with cargo containing banned shellfish and other marine products suspected to have been contaminated with "red tide" toxin, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said yesterday.
The intensified move was in response to an incident on Friday where three children died and 24 others from the town of Polangui and Ligao City were hospitalized after eating "tahong" or mussels bought in a local market.
Initial investigation indicated that the mussels reportedly contaminated with red tide toxin was brought by fish dealers from Sorsogon the province where shellfish products are abundant.
The death of 3 children and the hospitalization of 24 others prompted Albay Gov. Joey Salceda to issue an executive order banning the eating, selling of shellfish and other fish products and establishing checkpoints in all entry and exit points of the province and subject all carriers of marine and fish products to a thorough inspection.
The agencies from the police, health and fisheries were task implement the executive order that carries a directive that marine products found contaminated with the dangerous toxin shall be confiscated and the carriers shall be held for investigation.
Salceda said "In the interest of public health, until the BFAR lifts the ban on shellfish, all carriers of marine and fish products are subject to inspection at checkpoints in Albay."
He also ordered the provincial social welfare office to provide burial assistance to the families of the three children who died while the 24 people hospitalized were given free medical treatment in various district and provincial hospital.
As this developed, Dennis del Socorro, BFAR regional director in an interview said his agency has regularly issued advisory warning the public of the ban on the eating, buying, selling and transporting shellfish products contaminated with red tide toxin from Sorsogon and other places.
Del Socorro said the agency have fielded BFAR personnel to coordinate with chief executives of coastal towns in Sorsogon urging them to closely check the enforcement of the ban order.
He said "I am appealing to the town mayors to be vigilant in implementing the order and to talk with their fisherfolk and owners of fish cages not to sell and transport their marine products believed to be contaminated with red tide toxin."
He said reports have it that some unscrupulous fisher folks and fish cage operators are transporting and selling their fish products in Metro Manila including neighboring provinces across Bicol.
"I will be advising our BFAR units in other regions to take precautionary steps to check and prevent the entry of marine and other fish products from Sorsogon and Masbate suspected to be contaminated by the toxin," Del Socorro stressed.
Health authorities reported that several people have died due to poisoning after eating shelfish with red tide in the province of Sorsogon this year including the incident in Albay. (PIA) [top]