Thousands of fish wash up dead during past 2 months along beaches of Mariana Islands

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THE Division of Fish and Wildlife is discouraging the public from eating blue-banded surgeonfish commonly known as “hiyok” because it is “dangerous.”

Acting Director for Fish and Wildlife Manny Pangelinan in an interview on Friday said the public should not eat hiyok until there is an official announcement that it is safe to consume.

Pangelinan said they have received the results of tests done by experts in Hawaii that revealed that fish-kill incidents on Tinian and Saipan in the past two months were caused by marine toxins.
However, he added, there are no findings yet as to what kind of marine toxins killed the fish.

Pangelinan said the public should remove the guts of the fish and wash the insides thoroughly before cooking it.

“The experts found that the fish flesh or meat is not poisonous, but the guts could be, so we are not 100 percent sure that it is safe to eat and one should be very cautious in eating this kind of fish,” he said.

Mike Tenorio, a fisheries biologist, said hiyok is one of the top selling fish in the local market, but vendors have already stopped selling it.

“We discourage people from eating it, but if they chose to do so they should be very careful,” Tenorio said.

Pangelinan said this is the first time that fish-kill incidents involving hiyok have happened on Saipan.

But he said such incidents were only reported on Tinian and Saipan and not on Rota and Guam.

The first incident of fish kill happened on Tinian on Aug. 16 at the Chulu Beach and Masalok Beach.

Thousands of fish were found floating dead.

On August 28 another incident of fish kill was reported to DFW at Obyan Beach on Saipan. Similar incidents were reported on Sept. 10, 14, 19, 21 and 22 at Laolao Bay, Managaha and Tank Beaches.

A series of investigations, sample collections and samples testing were done by DFW personnel to determine the cause of these fish kills. 

Dr. Thierry M. Work, a wildlife disease specialist from the National Wildlife Health Center in Hawaii, was also asked to examine samples of fish collected and submitted by DFW.

“Dr. Work found there are marine toxins, but it’s difficult to pinpoint what kind of toxins because there are so manymarine toxins,” Pangelinan said.

“We wanted to determine if the marine toxins can be transferred to humans or if it was a kind of virus.

“It’s not a virus or bacteria and the fish are not starving.”

Pangelinan said they are still closely monitoring the incidents and continuing to investigate while seeking more expert opinions regarding the marine toxins and why they are affecting hiyok only.

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