Mass fish deaths in Vietnam: locals bury tons along shoreline

By Hoang Tao, Duc Hung, Vuong Anh   April 25, 2016 | 02:59 pm PT
Mass fish deaths in Vietnam: locals bury tons along shoreline
Chemicals such as powdered lime, chlorine and formaldehyde are put in together with the dead sea fish before they are buried. Photo by Hoang Tao
Local people have been burying dead fish that have washed up en masse along the central coast of Vietnam in an effort to avoid environmental damage.

The provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh and Quang Tri have ordered localities to collect and dispose of the dead fish to stop them from decomposing and polluting the environment. Local people have also been told not to eat the fish or try to sell them.

Quang Tri's Department of Natural Resources and Environment has instructed people on how to dispose of the fish, recommending they choose remote areas to bury the fish with chemicals such as chlorine, formaldehyde or powdered lime. These guidelines, however, were issued two to three days after the dead fish started washing up, and many of them had already been collected and buried naturally by locals.

A fisherman in Quang Tri said he is concerned that the toxic substances that killed the fish will simply seep back into the sea again, as many of them were buried near the coastline.

On April 25, dead fish were continuing to wash up in Ha Tinh's coastal communes. Nguyen Dinh Vin, chairman of Nam Ky ward's People's Committee, said the number of dead fish collected in the province that morning only amounted to a few kilograms. Many fish show signs of sickness, swiiming sluggishly in the water, he said.

In Quang Binh province, there are still dead fish in many places, mainly deep-sea fish that have died over the last few days, said Nguyen Ngoc Hieu, chairman of Bao Ninh commune. “Some people are taking the dead fish home to use as fertilizer. Fish that have been dead for a long time are being buried on the seashore or under the trees.”

The mass fish deaths along the central provinces of Vietnam were first reported in Ha Tinh province where thousands of natural sea fish and farm fish started washing up dead. Since then, the phenomenon has spread to Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. Statistics show that Ha Tinh has recorded 10 tons of dead fish, while a massive 30 tons has been found in Quang Tri.

Experts are still working to find out the cause while many people and scientists have raised questions over the waste discharged from a Formosa project in Vung Ang ward, Ha Tinh.

Related ministries and authorities have all agreed that the mass fish deaths are due to a strong toxic substance in the environment.

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