Foreign scientists step in to help Vietnam find cause of mass fish deaths

By Toan Dao   May 2, 2016 | 11:34 pm PT
Foreign scientists step in to help Vietnam find cause of mass fish deaths
A 35-kg dead fish found in Thua Thien-Hue central province on April 24. Photo by VnExpress
Scientists from the United States, Germany and Israel have arrived in Vietnam to help identify the reasons behind the mass fish deaths along the central coast.

Minister of Natural Resource and Environment Tran Hong Ha met with the foreign scientists and local experts on oceanography, coastal geology, coastal engineering and sustainable environment on Monday, according to a statement posted on the ministry's website on May 2.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is ready to let foreign scientists help us assess the environment around Vung Ang,” Ha said in a meeting with the scientists in Hanoi. The Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh province is where Taiwan's Formosa steel plant and other heavy industrial projects are located.

After being briefed about the situation, the foreign experts said they are willing to help Vietnam find the cause behind the mass fish deaths in the central region. They said authorities in Vietnam need to analyze information gathered by observation systems before, during and after the fish deaths.

“We will meet with the Ministry of Science and Technology after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment. If Vietnam agrees, we will send more experts and equipment to help Vietnam investigate the cause of this disaster. If we work together effectively, we believe we and the Vietnamese scientists will establish the reason quickly,” said Professor Roberto Mayerle, director of the Research and Technology Center under Germany’s University of Kiel.

“We will work with the scientists to review our coastal observation stations and identify what needs to be done now and in the future to respond more quickly to sea-related incidents,” Minister Ha added.

Since early April, about 70 tons of fish in the provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien - Hue have washed up dead due to an unknown cause. 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”.

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