The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (DA-BFAR) is recommending to keep the fishing bans in oil spill-hit municipalities in Oriental Mindoro after finding low-level contaminants or polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) in the fish samples.
In a press release, BFAR said results of oil and grease analysis in water samples collected from affected areas in Oriental Mindoro on April 10 showed significant increases in amounts from previous analyses, "albeit still within the standard for oil and grease of < 3.0 mg/L of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) based on water classification and use."
Low-level polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) were also detected in all fish samples from Oriental Mindoro collected on April 3.
"PAH accumulation was observed in samples collected from the municipalities of Bongabong and San Teodoro; however, there is currently no sufficient data showing an increasing trend," it said.
"In light of these developments, the DA-BFAR recommends keeping fishing bans in oil spill-hit municipalities in Oriental Mindoro since the analyses are not yet conclusive evidence as far as food safety is concerned," BFAR noted.
Meanwhile, all water samples collected from Caluya, Antique on March 28 passed the DENR standard for oil and grease.
"Fish samples collected from the province on April 11 showed no signs of oil tainting through organoleptic analyses," said BFAR.
However, signs of oil tainting were observed on shellfish samples.
In which, seaweed samples previously subjected to laboratory analysis also contained traces of PAHs.
"Further laboratory testing is currently being conducted, which will be shared once available. No new sightings of the oil spill have been reported since March 4," it added.
Following the results of the analyses and the current situation, the DA-BFAR allows fishing activities outside the reef zone of affected areas of Sitio Sabang, Barangay Tinogboc, Sitio Sigayan, Sitio Toong, Barangay Semirara, Sitio Liwagao, Barangay Sibolo, and adjacent deeper waters.
However, the Bureau still recommends prohibiting shellfish gathering and seaweed harvesting in affected areas since these organisms may have greater exposure to oil spill contaminants.
The municipal government of Caluya, Antique, has allowed regulated fishing activities within the vicinity of Semirara Island, Nagubat Island, and Liwagao Island, effective April 12, 2023, with the following precautions:
1. No fishing and collecting of shells shall be done in the shoreline and shallow areas of Sitio Sabang, Sitio Toong, Sitio Sigayan, and Sitio Liwagao.
2. Fish catch shall be reported to the barangay using the form on the record of fish catch issued by the Office of the Municipal Agriculturist.
3. The barangay shall closely monitor the fishing activities of its residents in coordination and collaboration with their respective associations.
4. In the event when contamination exists on fish catch, fishing activities shall be temporarily canceled until such time that the areas identified are declared safe for fishing.
Meanwhile, the agency continuously analyzes and monitors the area to establish time-series results on the oil spill's impact on food safety.
MT Princess Empress sank on February 28 off Najuan, Oriental Mindoro, while carrying 900,000 liters of industrial fuel. —Sherylin Untalan/ VAL, GMA Integrated News