Mass fish deaths provoke widespread worry in Vietnam

Thanh Nien News

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Dead fish are drifted into a dam near Lach Giang Seaport in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Photo: Thanh Quang/Thanh Nien Dead fish are drifted into a dam near Lach Giang Seaport in Thua Thien-Hue Province. Photo: Thanh Quang/Thanh Nien

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Many fishing villages in central Vietnam are eerily quiet these days. Boats stop sailing. Seafood restaurants are empty.
After fish kept dying en mass with all signs pointing to an environmental disaster, locals in at least four provinces have avoided eating fish. 
Between April 18 and 20, huge crowds of fishers flocked to a beach stretching around 20 kilometers from Vinh Thai Commune to Cua Tung Town in Quang Tri Province to pick up fish that were found dead on the shore.
“I have never seen anything like this in my 40 years of fishing. I don’t know what is happening to our sea and the fish,” said Ngo Thanh Tuyen.
Although the fishers picked up the fish, they said no one would buy them as the fish may have been contaminated.
“We ourselves dare not eat them,” Hoang Xuan Minh said worriedly.
The fishers said they would sell the fish to animal feed processing companies.
There were some spots where dead fish were left abandoned. The rotten fish started to smell very badly under the summer heat.
A dead fish is put on a scale.  Photo: Thanh Quang/Thanh Nien
In Thua Thien-Hue Province, some markets near the beaches sold only freshwater fish and vegetables in recent days. Local residents said they had stopped buying sea fish, afraid that the fish were not safe.
Some even claimed that animals died after eating the suspicious fish.
Several residents in Quang Binh Province reported to local authorities they had been suffering from food poisoning after eating some dead fish.
Contaminated water?
On Wednesday, the Directorate of Fisheries worked with Ha Tinh Province to determine the reason for the mass deaths of fish in Ky Anh Town, first reported on April 6.
Both wild fish living in the sea and farmed fish using sea water have been found dead in some coastal communes in the town, causing losses of billions of dong.
According to Ky Anh Town authorities, the first fish deaths were reported around five kilometers from Son Duong Port in Vung Ang Economic Zone, and in early morning when the tide was high.
Tests on water samples conducted by the agriculture ministry showed fish and shrimp in Ha Tinh died because of polluted water, but it was not determined where the water came from.
Le Xuan Vuong, chairman of Ky Loi Commune near Vung Ang Economic Zone, told Thanh Nien that some fish farmers suspected that two thermal power plants and a steel manufacturing plant in the zone had polluted the sea.
Le Duc Nhan, deputy director of the local agriculture department, said it was hard to determine the origin of polluted water as water samples were taken after the fish had died and the tide had subsided.
The agriculture ministry ordered relevant departments and agencies to find out exactly what caused the fish deaths. Teams of inspectors have been assigned to various locations.

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