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Bacteria Threat to Mussel Industry

PHILIPPINES - The Philippine mussel industry that gives jobs to thousands of Samarnons is threatened by parasitic bacteria causing heavy mortality.

This was revealed through a report obtained from Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Chief Rolando Ay-ay.

In a two page report prepared by Fish Health Officer Rosalinda Canas, it stated that results of laboratory examination done showed high level of bacterial count indicating further that green mussels (tahong) are infected with pathogenic bacteria.

Mussel samples examined were taken from Jiabong area.

Mussel farmers started to report to BFAR about the mussels 'dying' in the last week of May.

Reports of the same problem also started coming in from Mussel farms in Villareal and Tarangnan towns (all in Samar).

With the extensive mussel sampling tests, scientists are worried that 60-70 per cent of the mussel farms are experience the problem.

Officials from BFAR said that if there is no synchronised move to rehabilitate the industry, the industry will suffer heavy losses.

BFAR is calling for the intervention of either DENR or DOST to examine water samples from the areas affected as these two agencies, Canas said, are better equipped to analyse water samples.

In normal times, one stake (tulos) could yield a sack of mussels, but at the moment, it takes three or four stakes.

In the report, BFAR officials recommend that stakes be relocated along areas where there is a water current to maximize tidal flushing of marine waters along mussel farm areas.

Mussel farmers then suspected that run off coming from the rehabilitation of Samar roads were killing the mussels, but scientists refute this saying that this has been going on for years.

They added that the Samar roads are several kilometers away and that some sort of filtration happens before any destructive run-off could reach the mussel farms.

Another suspect the mussel farmers point to is the coal mining in Samar.

And another is the jellyfish processing facility in Barangay Bunuanan but City Agriculture technicians said that the facility has existed for years now.

However, at present, scientists are pointing to domestic waste and pollution as the reason for the decline in the mussels harvest.

Meanwhile, apart from linking with DENR and DOST, BFAR is continually conducting tests to find the cause of the problem and to find a solution for the mussel industry.

Based on the latest industry figures, mussel culture provide a projected gross and income of about P14 million based on an annual projected mussel production capacity of nearly 4,700 tonnes.

At present, there are about 320 households directly engaged in mussel farming in the municipalities of Jiabong, Villareal, Tarangnan, Catbalogan and Daram.

Ellen Hardy

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