PM orders nationwide environmental check after fish deaths; oil spill and earthquake not to blame

By Pham Huong, Toan Dao   April 25, 2016 | 09:25 am PT
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has asked relevant ministries and provinces across the country to carry out environmental inspections, especially on heavy industrial projects, with priority given to sea areas, according to a government statement late Monday.

This is in part a response to the mass fish deaths along the coast of Vietnam’s central provinces, which have drawn special public attention. The ministries of industry and trade, planning and investment, natural resources and environment, and provincial governments of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien-Hue, and other provinces were ordered to “actively” undertake the inspections.

The mass fish deaths in central Vietnam were first reported in fish cages placed at sea near Ha Tinh’s Vung Ang ward at the beginning of April. Since then, thousands of saltwater and freshwater fish as well as fish raised in cages have died in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue. Locals who live along the coast have collected tons of dead fish since then, some weighing up to 50kg.


Dead fish weighing 35kg found dead at a beach in Thua Thien-Hue. Photo provided by a local.

The prime minister also asked Ministry of Science and Technology, Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology (VAST), and other related ministries, to investigate the fish deaths and propose ways to punish any uncovered violations, the statement said. The four provinces were also ordered to submit a list of affected fishermen in need of assistance in their respective provinces. 

Meanwhile, the VAST, through its analysis of satellite images and data from seismic observation stations in the central region, said Monday oil spills and earthquake are not the reasons for the mass fish deaths. There were no major oil spills in the region from April 6-24 and no earthquake measuring more than 5 on the Richter scale recorded. “Effects caused by earthquakes in Japan on April 14 and April 16 have been recorded but these have not impacted our target areas,” VAST said.

VAST has sent a group of scientists to the affected areas from April 19-24. They have measured necessary indicators at the sites and collected 200 samples of seawater, sedimentary rocks and 200 samples of dead fish for analysis. The scientists are now working to identify toxic alga and analyze toxics in the water, sedimentary rock and fish samples in an effort to find the cause of mass fish deaths.

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