Official blames Ba Ria fish kill on rain

By Phuoc Tuan, Xuan Thang   October 17, 2016 | 08:32 pm PT
Official blames Ba Ria fish kill on rain
Dead fish collected from farms along a river in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province. Photo by VnExpress/Phuoc Tuan
Farmers say seafood processors dumped untreated waste into the Cha Va River in the southern Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province; they've done it before.

Agriculture officials in Ba Ria – Vung Tau Province blamed heavy rain for the mass fish deaths that triggered a major street protest, last week.

Protesters who took to the streets claimed seafood processors discharged untreated waste, contaminating their riparian farms and costing them over a million dollars in dead fish.

Tran Van Cuong, deputy director of the province’s agriculture department, said technicians tested water and fish samples before reaching their conclusion on the cause of the mass fish death along the Cha Va River on Monday.

Cuong said the heavy rain reduced the salinity and oxygen in the river, causing fish to stop eating and die.

He also blamed the 90 families affected by the die-off for packing too many fish into small cages.

All sides agree the incident resulted in 254 tons of dead fish worth around VND30 billion ($1.34 million).

The fish began dying on Wednesday of last week. The next day, the affected farmers dragged dead fish onto a highway and occupied it for three hours.

Last summer, the farmers filed suit against 14 seafood processing firms for releasing waste into the river, resulting in the deaths of tons of farmed fish. The farmers sued for $800,000 in damages and negotiations remain underway. So far, only two of the companies have agreed to pay VND300 million ($13,400).

Cuong agreed that seafood processors did discharge untreated wastewater that lowered oxygen levels on the firms, but he believed it was not the main factor in the die-off.

“This situation is different,” he said.

Farmers aren't buying Cuong's version of events.

“My farm has a perfect oxygen pumping system. So you cannot say that tons of my fish died because heavy rain reduced oxygen in the water,” said a farmer named Bien.

Vietnam has been beset by water pollution scandals lately, prompting reports of mass fish deaths from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi.

Nearly 70 tons of dead fish were collected from Ho Chi Minh City’s Nhieu Loc-Thi Nghe Canal in May after the first heavy rains of the year flushed waste through sewer catchments.

Around 200 tons of dead fish were collected from Hanoi’s West Lake earlier this month and the polluters have yet to be identified.

In April, an estimated 70 tons of dead fish washed ashore in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces, creating a seafood scare throughout the country. Taiwanese steel firm Formosa eventually admitted to discharging untreated waste into the sea; government officials are in the process of distributing a $500 million compensation package.

Related news:

Dead fish hit the streets as Vietnamese farmers protest pollution

47 tons of fish found dead at aquatic farms in central Vietnam

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