Vietnamese fishermen remain beached 4 months after toxic disaster

By Duc Hung, Hoang Tao   August 30, 2016 | 11:09 pm PT
Hundreds of fishing boats are rotting in the sun rather than sailing out to sea.

In early April, waste water from the Vietnam unit of Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group killed off tons of fish along some 200 kilometers of Vietnam’s central coastline.

About 41,000 fishermen and over 176,000 people dependent on the industry have been affected by the disaster, the government said in a report in July.

The Taiwanese fish killer, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, made a public apology after the incident and has recently transferred a $500 million compensation package to the Vietnamese government.

At a press conference held at the end of August, authorities claimed that it’s now safe to swim in the affected waters but remained non-committal about whether it is safe to catch and eat fish.

The disaster took place about four months ago but it still exerts an enormous impact on local communities who depend on fishing for their livelihoods..


Hundreds of boats have been lying unused along the coast of Ky Loi Commune, Ky Anh Town in the central coastal province of Ha Tinh for months. Local fishermen have to use blankets and curtains to protect the boats from sunlight or rainfall.


Some fishermen said the boats haven’t been out for a long time and many are damaged, costing them a fortune to fix. In the picture is a rusty anchor.


In Ky Ha Commune, 70 hectares (173 acres) of salt farms have been abandoned. Nguyen Duc Viet, 46, said that he can’t sell salt as consumers are afraid it is also contaminated. 


Phan Duy Vinh, vice chairman of Ky Anh Town’s People Committee, said that 54 residential communities in the town have been affected by the Formosa incident. Many families are facing financial problems ahead of the new school year.


The same situation has been reported in Quang Tri, another central coastal province. Tran Viet Tien, a fisherman from Gio Linh District, said that he has filled his boats with leaves to prevent them from being damaged by the weather as well as local children.


Fisherman Phan Van Son said that his family has switched to raising pigs to earn a living.


Cua Viet Beach was abandoned on an August morning. The number of tourists to Quang Tri has fallen by 90 percent against a year ago. The occupancy rate at hotels stands at 10-15 percent.


On August 22, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment announced that the seawater is safe now, so Thach Kim Fish Market, about100 kilometers from the steel factory, has resumed trading.


However, many traders said that they remain hesitant, pending further announcements from the Ministry of Health about the safety levels of fish.


Many fishermen have started to fix their boats. Son from Gio Linh District in Quang Tri said: “I hope the fish will return to the sea at the end of the eighth lunar month [the end of September] so we can set sail again.”

Related news:

Formosa's toxic disaster: are fish safe to eat now in central Vietnam?

Taiwanese fish killer completes $500 million compensation package

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