Prime Minister: Scientists to investigate cause of mass fish deaths

By Xuan Hoa   April 29, 2016 | 04:01 pm GMT+7
Prime Minister: Scientists to investigate cause of mass fish deaths
Dead fish on Ha Tinh's beach. Photo by Duc Hung

The Ministry of Science and Technology is to lead a team of scientists, including international experts if necessary, to quickly identify the cause of the mass fish deaths in Vietnam.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc assigned specific responsibilities to government ministries at a meeting on April 28 to deal with the mass fish deaths along Vietnam’s central coast.

The meeting was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh, Central Propaganda Chief Vo Van Thuong and representatives from the ministries of natural resources and environment, agriculture and rural development, science and technology, information and communications and public security, as well as the Government Office.

“This is the first time Vietnam has experienced such a large scale and complicated sea disaster. Although government agencies have already intervened, the cause so far has not been identified, and this has disappointed and angered the public,” said a statement released by the Government Office yesterday.

The Ministry of Science and Technology will lead a team of scientists to investigate the cause of the mass fish deaths.

The Ministry of Public Security will focus on collecting relevant evidence to prosecute any violations of the law.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs as well as people’s committees in the four affected provinces will estimate the damage caused and propose support policies for affected households.

The Ministry of Health is responsible for coordinating the safe collection and treatment of dead fish, as well as providing safety instructions to seafood farmers. Transporting and trading dead seafood is prohibited.

“The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment is the communications point for the media on this issue,” the Government Office said. 

The ministries of natural resources and environment, agriculture and rural development and public security, along with the Vietnam Academy of Science and Technology and the people’s committees of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue provinces have been urged to follow the Prime Minister’s previous orders.

The mass fish deaths in central Vietnam were first reported in fish cages at sea near Ha Tinh’s Vung Ang ward at the beginning of April. As of April 25, 70 tons of mostly demersal fish had died in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue, according to official reports from the provinces. In Thua Thien-Hue alone, 35 tons of fish have died on commercial farms.

According to a statement by the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment on April 27, there are two hypotheses to explain the mass fish deaths. One is toxic chemicals released by human activities. Another is an abnormal natural phenomenon that causes algae to rapidly bloom, commonly known as a “red tide”.