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Clams die en masse at northern Vietnam beach after oil vessel sinks

By Pham Chieu   September 16, 2022 | 04:00 am PT
Clams die en masse at northern Vietnam beach after oil vessel sinks
Dead clams are seen near a beach of Thai Binh Province following the sinking of a oil-carrying vessel about 10 km away, September 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Pham Chieu
Thousands of tons of clams in northern Vietnam's Thai Binh Province have died after an oil-carrying vessel sunk.

Over the past week, dozens of families in Thai Do Commune, Thai Thuy District, could not sit still as their clams, which were close to being harvested, kept dying. The smell of death spread over 10 kilometers along Con Den Beach.

While local authorities have yet to provide an official explanation for the clams' death, it coincided with the moment when the Ha An 01 vessel, which carried over 1,000 tons of oil, sunk on Sept. 8 while anchored about 10 kilometers from the site where the clams were raised.

Nguyen The Luyen, from Tien Hai District, said that just one day after the vessel sank, the clams began to die. The fields where they lived, spanning hundreds of hectares, were full of oil stains. A week after the incident, the smell of oil was still strong; their stains painting black streaks across the sands.

In 2006, Luyen and 10 other families in Tien Hai District went to Thai Do Commune to rent a field to raise clams, totaling 63 hectares. Now most of the clams have died, and those who survived could not be sold since the smell of oil has already contaminated them.

"We tried cooking them up, but we couldn't eat them due to the oil smell," Luyen said.

With over 60 hectares’ worth of clams affected, Luyen and neighboring families estimated a loss of around VND22 billion ($929,447).

He said around 100 tons of clams could be harvested per hectare. A kilogram of clams could be sold at VND10,000-11,000.

Economic damage however was not the only consequence. Farmers fear the environment might have also been affected by the oil.

Vu Dinh Ngai, from Thai Do Commune, came back empty-handed when he checked the fields for shrimp and fish. Ever since the clams died, other species have avoided the area.

The oil might have latched onto the mud and the surface, meaning even the clams who survived will not be able to grow, while future generations of clams would also be heavily impacted.

"It would take at least two more years before clams could be raised in the impacted area. For now, cleaning up the dead clams is also a major problem, because every hectare would require at least 90 people to clean, costing about VND27 million," Ngai said.

The Thai Do People’s Committee said there are around 504 hectares of fields with dead clams. Chairman Ta Ngoc Khoi said samples have been sent for testing to evaluate the damage caused.

There are around 106 families raising clams in Thai Do, totaling over 1,000 hectares of clam fields. A total 400 hectares were supposed to be harvested, both for domestic consumption and to be sold to China.

 
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