THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources in Northern Mindanao (BFAR-10) is on alert again for a possible presence of Harmful Algae Bloom (HAB) as the summer heat might warm waters up.

Rey Eduardo Hojas, fish health laboratory-in-charge of BFAR-10, said discoloration in the region’s seas and fish mortality are no longer reported in the waters off Misamis Occidental province, Balingasag town in Misamis Oriental, Ozamiz City, and Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte.

However, Hojas said, “as of now, ga-monitor gyapun mi kay nibalik na pud ang init (we are still monitoring since the heat is back).”

According to BFAR, Cochlodinium polykrikoides or HAB breeds about one kilometer from the seashore. Causes of algal bloom are high water temperature, and high salinity and nutrients in water. They rise near the water surface mostly from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Water temperature may rise further because of the summer season. There is also a possibility that the planktons may come nearer the shores.

HAB planktons kill the fishes by seeping through the fishes’ gills, form a mucus there, and choke them.

The first strike of HAB was recorded on March 26, 2014 when it was first spotted in Iligan Bay where 800 pieces of "kitong" or siganids were found dead.

The worst reported discoloration and fish mortality were reported at the coastal areas in Laguindingan to Balingasag towns in Misamis Oriental.

Hojas said that in Balingasag alone, 45,594 pieces of fish were found dead, 20 fish cages and 15 investors were affected, totaling to a P530,360.60 worth of damage calculated as of press time. He said that they are still consolidating the total damage caused by the bloom.

The most affected species of fish were kitong, bangus (milk fish), and some coral fishes.

Affected areas were Baliangao, Misamis Occidental, parts of Iligan bay, parts of Bacolod town in Lanao del Norte, Lugait, Manticao, Initao, and Macajalar Bay.

“Wala pa ta kabalo kung kanus-a ni siya mahuman (HAB) (We don’t know when this will end),” Hojas said.

The last HAB attack was in 2009 and it also started in Iligan Bay.

Hojas said that this year’s bloom is bigger than the previous year’s.

BFAR-10 advises that as soon as a water discoloration is found, fishermen should make an emergency harvest of their fish cages or tow the cages to a spot not affected by the bloom.

Caged fish are most vulnerable to the bloom because they cannot swim away once the planktons scatter.

Hojas also said it is best not to call HAB as ‘red tide’ because it creates a connotation that even the freshly caught fish are toxic.

Instead, he said, it would be best to call it HAB in order to protect the fish investors.