TACLOBAN CITY -- At least 15 people were downed by shellfish poisoning within the first week of November in Samar province, raising concern over negligence of vulnerable communities on red tide warnings.

Of the 15 people hospitalized, four of them are from Catbalogan City, seven from Tarangnan, three from Daram, and one from Sta. Rita town. All victims recovered days after eating green mussels, according to report released by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on Friday.

The incident came on the heels of shellfish poisoning cases that killed a boy while 45 others fell ill in Samar province on the last week of September.

In a mobile phone interview, BFAR assistant regional director Justerie Granali said the new cases implies that people don’t heed existing shellfish ban.

“Village officials should do their part in helping us warn the people that eating shellfish gathered from waters with red tide is life threatening,” Granali said.

BFAR in coordination with the maritime police, Philippine Ports Authority, Police Public Safety Battalion and Philippine Fisheries Development Authority set up an intensified fisheries checkpoint in the region.

Six bays in Eastern Visayas are still positive of red tide toxins, prompting the BFAR to again raise a stern warning against shellfish consumption.

These red tide-infested areas are Irong-irong Bay, Maqueda Bay, Villareal Bay, and Daram waters in Samar province; Carigara Bay in Leyte; and Matarinao Bay in Eastern Samar.

Based on samples collected by the fisheries bureau, red tide toxins are still present in both seawater and shellfish meat - above the regulatory limit. (PNA)