Left photo: Project proponent JA Horvidalla leads the preliminary identification and counting of plastic particles in the filtered samples. Right photo: Possible microfiber (L) and microfoam (R) particles in the filtered samples

Microplastic particles were detected in filtered samples of water taken from municipal sources around the Taon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) in the Visayas.

To address this issue, the Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (ERDB) through the Coastal Resources and Ecotourism Research, Development and Extension Center (CRERDEC) is currently conducting a preliminary identification and counting of plastic particles for this year’s extended Research Study on the Determination of Microplastic Contamination in TSPS at the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center/Aquaculture Department (SEAFDEC/AQD) Laboratory in Tigbauan, Iloilo.

A total of 756 filtered samples of water collected will be analyzed through microscopy to distinguish and measure the different types of microplastic.

Water samples were collected from the six (6) municipalities of TSPS, namely, Escalante City in Negros Occidental, San Remigio in Northern Cebu, Tanjay City in Negros Oriental, Toledo City in Cebu, Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental, and Santander in Southern Cebu.

Reports revealed that tourism-related activities in the TSPS municipalities are on the rise, contributing to the widespread use of plastic products.

Previous studies also have disclosed that TSPS microplastic occurrence is relatively high. TSPS had the highest microplastic contamination in the 2019 study implemented by CRERDEC compared to the other nine marine water bodies in the Philippines.

The other sites sampled for the 2019 study were Subic Bay, Zambales; Manila Bay (Ternate, Cavite areas), Lamon Bay, Calauag, Quezon; Apo Reef Natural Park, Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro; Boracay Island, Malay, Aklan; Taklong Island National Marine Reserve, Nueva Valencia, Guimaras; Iligan Bay, Butuan Bay, and Davao Gulf.

Study results prompted the Department of Environment and Natural Resources – Provincial Environment and Natural Resources Office (DENR-PENRO) Cebu and TSPS-Protected Area Management Office (TSPS-PAMO) to collaborate with CRERDEC to conduct a deeper analysis of the presence of microplastics in TSPS.

It is expected as well that study results will motivate the Local Government Units (LGUs) and its implementing body in intensifying the information, education and communication (IEC) campaign for the strict implementation of solid waste management.

PENRO Cebu funded this extended project to support DENR’s sustained efforts in protecting, conserving, and managing TSPS.

Tañon Strait Protected Seascape (TSPS) is the largest marine protected area (MPA) in the Philippines, located between Cebu and Negros islands.

It is home to many migratory organisms, such as sharks, whales, and dolphins, including commercially important fishes like sardines and tuna.

Several studies revealed that these tiny plastic pieces less than 5mm in size could cause physical and chemical toxicity to fish and other marine organisms, such as starvation and poisoning.

However, the human risk of microplastic through fish consumption has not been well studied. CRAH Bartonico, CRERDEC