National council formed to uncover mystery behind mass fish deaths

By Toan Dao   May 4, 2016 | 10:13 pm GMT+7
National council formed to uncover mystery behind mass fish deaths
A dead fish. Photo by Ngoc Truong

About 100 scientists from more than 30 research institutes and universities across Vietnam have been mobilized in an effort to find the cause of the mysterious mass fish deaths along the central coast.

The scientists have expertise in aquaculture, the environment, geology, marine geophysics, chemistry, mechanics, space technology, food safety and hygiene, petrochemicals and mineral production, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement on Wednesday.

They have taken hundreds of samples of dead fish, water, sediment and plankton to analyze for toxicity, marine diseases, toxic algae and other indicators. The scientists have also examined earthquake data for thermal shocks and data from remote sensors to check currents, temperature, chlorophyll content and oil. The samples have been analyzed in modern laboratories with equipment from the U.S., Japan and Switzerland, the ministry said.

Following analyses, the scientists have ruled out disease, an oil spill and thermal shocks or other effects caused by an earthquake. 

The Ministry of Science and Technology, following directions from Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, has formed a national council of science and technology experts responsible for finding the cause behind the mass fish deaths, the statement said.

Professor Chau Van Minh, president of the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and head of the national council, met with scientists from the U.S., Germany and Israel on May 2 to coordinate efforts to deal with the environmental crisis, the Ministry of Science and Technology said.

Since early April, about 70 tons of fish have washed up dead in the central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien - Hue. On April 27, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment said there are two possible reasons for the mass fish deaths.

One is toxic chemicals released by human activities. The other is an abnormal natural phenomenon that causes algae in the water to bloom at an accelerated rate, commonly known as a “red tide”.