TACLOBAN CITY,  (PNA) -– The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has been seeing signs of weakening red tide that plagued several bays in Eastern Visayas this quarter.

BFAR Regional Director Juan D. Albaladejo said typhoon-induced rains and cooler weather in the past few weeks has contributed to lower water temperature and salinity, which is not anymore friendly to the toxic organisms.

“Toxicity level in both shellfish meat and seawater has been going down, but shellfish ban is still up in affected bays. Red tide should be consistently negative for three readings before we can declare that an area is red tide-free,” Albaladejo said in a mobile phone interview.

Since October this year, Eastern Visayas region has been threatened by what the BFAR described as the biggest red tide bloom that has not been seen in more than three decades.

The fisheries bureau blamed the prolong dry season this year and sudden downpour as the major factor that triggered the bloom in eight bays and coastal waters, considered as the region’s major source of shellfish.

From late November until early December, the infestation was alarming since the color of water turned to copper red with a depth of six to nine meters, stretching up to a kilometer from the shoreline, according to Albaladejo.

The discoloration of seawater is triggered by massive population growth of few species of a type of algae that produce toxins.

BFAR has raised shellfish ban over Carigara Bay in Carigara, Barugo, San Miguel, Capoocan, and Leyte towns in Leyte province; Biliran Strait in Naval, Caibiran, Cabucgayan, Culaba, Kawayan, and Almeria in Biliran province; and coastal waters of Leyte, Leyte.

Red tide alert is also up over Cambatutay Bay in Tarangnan, Samar; Irong Irong Bay in Catbalogan City, Samar; Villareal Bay in Villareal, Samar; and Maqueda Bay in Jiabong, Catbalogan City, Motiong, Paranas, Pinabacdao, Hinabangan, San Sebastian, and Calbiga, Samar.

In the past five weeks, paralytic shellfish poisoning has killed a seven-year-old boy in Carigara, Leyte and a 62-year-old man in Caibiran, Biliran, according to BFAR. At least 18 people were hospitalized after eating shellfish with red tide toxins.

BFAR hopes that red tide will completely dissipate early next year.  (PNA)