Vietnamese government urged to shed light on cause of fish deaths

By Pham Huong   May 27, 2016 | 01:28 am PT
Vietnamese government urged to shed light on cause of fish deaths
Dead fish washed up the shoreline of four central provinces in Vietnam since April. : VnExpress/Duc Hung
The Vietnam Fisheries Society (Vinafis) has formally asked the government and relevant state agencies to speed up their investigation into the cause of the mass fish deaths that have been ravaging the central coast since April.

The request from Vinafis, whose mission is to promote the development of the fisheries sector, follows the Vietnamese government's failure to establish what killed tons of fish along a 200 kilometer stretch of Vietnam's central coast.

Vinafis urged authorities to step up the pace for fear that the gradual dilution of toxins in the sea will make the search for the exact cause more difficult.

The initial investigation suggested that the causes of the extraordinary fish deaths were chemicals discharged by humans or an algae blooming phenomenon known as a 'red tide', although this was later disregarded by Vinafis at the end of April.

Determining the true cause of the fish deaths, according to the group, will help to reassure the public and comply with provisions on food safety and animal and plant health outlined by the World Trade Organization, of which Vietnam is a member.

Fishermen in affected provinces such as Ha Tinh and Thua Thien – Hue have been unable to return to work while fish farmers are out of business. Vinafis has asked the government to continue providing 15 kilograms of rice per month to each member of the affected families until the cause is determined and production resumes.

“If the fish deaths were caused by humans then besides being punished according to the law, the culprits must pay for the assistance provided by the government. The culprits should also have to pay the government for losses to maritime biological resources and for cleanup work in the affected waters,” said Nguyen Viet Thang, chairman of Vinafis.

The organization also recommended the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE) to consider a policy on environmental control, aimed at waste discharged from industrial and business activities.

In early April, large quantities of fish washed up dead near the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province. The phenomenon spread south along the coast of the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Thua Thien Hue, resulting in more than a 100 tons of dead fish.

Vietnam’s MONRE said on Wednesday the ministry is not covering up the truth about the mysterious mass fish deaths in the central region.

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