THE Bureau of Fishers and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)-Northern Mindanao on Monday, September 4, said it has yet to determine the cause of the death of hundreds of herring or “tamban” found on the shore by residents in Purok 12, Baloy, Barangay Tablon, Cagayan de Oro City.

Villagers in the coastal community said they were shocked when they saw specks of white on the sea’s surface around 10 a.m., Sunday, September 3.

What the village fishermen had seen were hundreds of herring floating lifeless and tossed by waves on the shore.

“They were glittering, but they were not moving,” said Rudy Gamo, 53, a fisherman since the 1980s.

Soon after, many of the herring began to wash up on the beach. By this time, people began to pick up the dead fish. Some of them brought lightweight styrofoam boxes and filled these with fish.

Villagers from other areas in Tablon also came and joined in the picking of dead fish. People living in the shoreline immediately cooked the fish.

As of Monday, there has been no report of people suffering from any gastrointestinal disorder from eating the dead fish.

Dr. Jennifer Marie Rivero, a veterinarian at BFAR-Northern Mindanao, said people should not have eaten the dead fish until the agency could determine what really caused its death, although she noted that the fish appeared to be in good condition and the sea water contained no toxic substances.

“We would highly discourage eating the fish, since we don’t know what caused its death,” Rivero said.

Rivero said a fish kill could occur by the change of the quality of the water, illegal fishing practices, and the release of sewage of manufacturing facilities into the sea.

The village’s coastal area is the site of a handful of factories, among them a corn processing factory and a dressed chicken facility.

Rivero noted there were reported fish kills in the past few years.

Nemfe Antigua, 38, a fish vendor, said she doesn’t think the fish kill was the result by contamination of the sea by poisonous substances.

“If toxic chemical had killed the sardines, then those of us who had eaten it would have already gotten sick. But there were no reports of such. I even fed my children fried sardines,” Antigua said.

Gamo noted that since the operation of the manufacturing companies in Baloy, their catch has also dwindled.

“We used to fish near the shoreline, but not anymore. We have to go farther into the deep waters just to catch fish,” he said.

Gamo and other fishermen had also observed that many of them had experienced severe itchiness and they suspected that the liquid released by a processing facility may be the culprit.