12 April 2023
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) has been monitoring the situation in fishing areas affected by the recent oil spill. It has also been evaluating contaminant levels in seafood samples from these areas to determine if fish and seaweed are safe for public consumption and if fishing bans should be lifted or imposed by the local government units (LGUs) concerned.
Fish samples collected and analyzed from select sites in Oriental Mindoro on March 10 showed low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH). Likewise, seaweeds collected and analyzed from select sites in Caluya, Antique on March 9 showed low-level contaminants or PAH.
PAH are harmful to humans and other living organisms, and may accumulate in the flesh of marine organisms over time. Seaweeds and other sessile organisms have greater chances of accumulating PAHs due to their immobility.
The results were consistent with the findings of the DA-BFAR in its first and second batch of analyses, that is, minimal amounts of PAH levels were present in seafood collected from sampling sites in Oriental Mindoro.
Despite low-level amounts found in the samples, the Bureau recommends keeping fishing bans in oil spill-hit municipalities in Oriental Mindoro since the initial analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned. The DA-BFAR also recommends retaining harvesting bans on seaweeds in Caluya, Antique until further evaluation shows it is safe for public consumption.
These samples were collected during the early days of March, making the current situation unknown due to the possibility that the spill had spread further due to ocean current and wind direction, and more PAHs may have accumulated in marine organisms.
The DA-BFAR continuously analyzes and monitors the area to establish time-series results on the impact of the oil spill with regard to food safety. Succeeding analysis of fish and seaweed samples will be conducted to ensure seafood is safe for public consumption. Rest assured that the Bureau is fast-tracking the laboratory analyses without compromising the accuracy of data, which serves as the basis for its recommendations. Findings and recommendations will be shared to the public and concerned government offices as soon as data becomes available.
To date, the Bureau has already allocated Php4.4 million-worth of livelihood assistance in the form of post-harvest technology packages which will benefit 10 fisherfolk associations and cooperatives or 689 families. About Php1.5 million was also earmarked for the provision of food assistance to 5,000 affected fisherfolk in MIMAROPA, while Php580,500 was spent to help displaced fishing groups in Western Visayas. In addition, the Bureau has deployed monitoring, control, and surveillance (MCS) vessels, as well as PPE sets and other materials for clean-up activities. Additional interventions are also being prepositioned based on rehabilitation proposals from the oil spill-hit areas.