Central Vietnam shark attack prompts relocation of fish cages

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A shark attack on a 17-year-old boy in Binh Dinh Province has prompted the central coastal province to order the removal of floating fish cages from its beaches.

However, scientists have said the concern that the cages are attracting the fish might not be justified, calling for more thorough research into preventing similar attacks in the future.

On June 15, Huynh Nhu Hoang was attacked by a shark when he was swimming a few dozen meters offshore on a beach in the province's Quy Nhon Town.

Hoang said he swam for the shore as soon as he saw a shark about one meter long swim toward him but was bitten in the left foot just a few meters away. He said the fish released him and swam away after he kicked it with his right foot.

Hoang was treated at the Military Hospital No. 13 where doctors sutured a gash in his foot that was 12 centimeters long and six centimeters wide.

Hoang is the latest of several victims of shark attacks on Quy Nhon beaches since July 2009. All the victims have escaped with injuries, mostly minor, but some severe.

On June 16, the Binh Dinh People's Committee convened a meeting to find solutions to the issue. The provincial administration felt floating fish cages and hundreds of fishing boats docking on the beach could have attracted the sharks.

All fish cages have to move out of the swimming areas by July 1, the committee decided.

However, experts are concerned that it might not be the cause and have called for funding a thorough research project to find the actual reasons behind the recent appearances of sharks in the area. They said sharks had appeared on other beaches in Quy Nhon where there were neither fish cages nor fishing boats.

Nguyen Huu Hao, vice director of Binh Dinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and head of Binh Dinh Fishery Resources Exploitation and Protection Agency, said a task force should be set up to conduct the research.

The Institute of Oceanography in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa, which conducts marine research in the region, does not have funds to carry out the research on shark appearances.

"We cannot do and arrive at an accurate conclusion by staying on the ground. Detailed results can only come through research for which we are still looking for funds," said Vo Si Tuan, vice director of the institute.

Earlier, local fishermen were told to hunt for the shark believed to have attacked several people on Quy Nhon beaches. One of the fishermen, Do Van Cong, on April 13 caught a shark about 1.6 meters long, weighing around 100 kilograms. He received an award of VND5 million from local authorities.

Many fishermen in the area are now eager to hunt the sharks and collect the rewards, but this has provoked controversies as many said there should be another solution because sharks need to be protected for preservation pusposes.

Prof. Piers Allbrook in Ho Chi Minh City said the "the perilous situation facing sharks in our grossly overfished world's oceans where many species face extinction" should be taken into consideration.

"Sharks are an essential element of oceanic ecosystems and governments should strive for their preservation," he told Thanh Nien Weekly in an email.

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