Vietnam investigates mass fish deaths

Tonnes of fish, including rare species which live far offshore and in the deep, have been discovered on beaches along the country's central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Hue.
Channel NewsAsia 21 Apr 16;

HANOI: Vietnam on Thursday (Apr 21) said it was investigating whether pollution is to blame for a spate of mysterious mass fish deaths along the country's central coast after huge amounts of marine life washed ashore in recent days.

Tonnes of fish, including rare species which live far offshore and in the deep, have been discovered on beaches along the country's central coastal provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Quang Binh and Hue.

"We have never seen anything like it," aquaculture official Nhu Van Can told AFP on Thursday.

The strange situation first came to light when farmed fish in the area began dying in great numbers, he said, with locals later discovering huge numbers of dead fish on beaches.

Local fishermen told state-run media that they are burying hundreds of kilogrammes of fish everyday. "If you sail just three miles offshore, you can see dead fish all over the ocean floor," the state-run Tuoi Tre quoted local fishermen as saying.

Signs point to the fish having been poisoned by "unidentified substances," Tran Dinh Du, deputy director of agriculture in Quang Binh province, said, according to the report. "We have asked people not to eat the fish and not use the fish as food for their livestock," Du added.

State news outlet Thanh Nien quoted worried locals saying they dared not eat any of the washed up fish, adding in their report that "all signs (are) pointing to an environmental disaster."

Central Ha Tinh province is home to a sprawling economic zone which houses numerous industrial plants, including a multi-billion dollar steel plant run by Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa.

Hanoi has dispatched teams of environmental experts and officials to investigate the phenomenon, the Ministry of Environment said in a statement posted online.

"We must quickly establish whether the fish have died because of environmental pollution," Environment Minister Tran Hong Ha said in the report.

Vietnam has a long coastline and much of the country's export income depends on seafood, including farmed shrimp, catfish and wild-caught tuna.

Last year, the country earned 6.6 billion dollars from seafood exports.

- AFP/ec


No link between Vietnam fish deaths and steel plant: Environment Ministry
Vietnamese authorities say they find no conclusive link between Taiwan’s Formosa steel plant and mass fish deaths along Vietnam’s central coast.
Tan Qiuyi Channel NewsAsia 27 Apr 16;

HANOI: Vietnamese authorities say they find no conclusive link between Taiwan’s Formosa steel plant and mass fish deaths along Vietnam’s central coast.

Preliminary findings point to two possible causes - "toxic discharge from human activities" and an algal bloom or red tide, deputy environment minister Vo Tuan Nhan told reporters at a media conference late on Wednesday night (Apr 27).

“Until now, after our investigation and evidence gathering, we have not found any proof to conclude that there is a link between Formosa, other factories, and the mass fish deaths,” he said in Vietnamese.

Reading a prepared statement, Nhan said investigators also did not find any indicator in the seawater exceeding Vietnam’s environmental safety standards. The deputy minister did not take questions from the media and left after delivering the statement.

Reporters had waited six hours for the 10-minute media conference, which took place after an inter-agency meeting at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment in Hanoi.

In recent weeks, tonnes of dead fish, including deep-sea species, have washed up on the shores of four provinces along Vietnam’s central coast - Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue - affecting the livelihoods of fishermen and businesses dependent on the region’s seafood industry.

Local media reports had pointed to toxic discharge from a multi-billion dollar steel plant in Ha Tinh belonging to Taiwanese conglomerate Formosa Plastics Group, riling public anger against the foreign investor. Local authorities have also been blamed for being slow to respond.

A Taiwanese director of the steel plant Chou Chun Fan was fired earlier on Wednesday after he was filmed telling local TV station VTC14 that Vietnam had to choose between catching fish and shrimp and having a modern steel plant. “You cannot have both,” Chou had said in Vietnamese.

The Formosa Ha Tinh steel plant was an accidental target of anti-China riots across Vietnam in 2014, after China moved an oil rig into waters Vietnam also claims. Protesters had attacked the plant believing it was a Chinese firm.

- CNA/ec


Vietnam TV says 'reactionary forces' at work in environmental protest
Vietnam's state television issued a warning to the public on Sunday to shun calls by "reactionary forces" to join protests over an environmental disaster it said was being exploited to try to overthrow the government.
Channel NewsAsia 15 May 16;

HANOI: Vietnam's state television issued a warning to the public on Sunday to shun calls by "reactionary forces" to join protests over an environmental disaster it said was being exploited to try to overthrow the government.

An 11-minute prime-time report on Vietnam Television (VTV) disclosed names and images of well-known dissidents and bloggers it said were trying to dupe the public and violently undermine the government, with support and funding from overseas groups.

Although communist Vietnam has long sought to silence and discredit its critics the warning by the country's biggest broadcaster of possible seditious activity was highly detailed and of an unusually long duration. It was carried by several other major state-run channels.

"Their intention to abuse and disturb was revealed when many subjects called for using knives and petrol bombs to attack the functional forces and to overthrow the authorities," the narrator of the VTV report said.

"Many people may ask what kind of peaceful marches are they ... Is this possibly a preparation for a riot and overthrow?" the voice-over asked.

The warning came as protesters had tried to rally for a third successive Sunday to vent their anger at the government and a unit of Taiwan's Formosa Plastics, a firm they blame for causing an environmental disaster and the death of large numbers of fish in central coast provinces in April.

Tight security in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City prevented major rallies taking place, however, although some social media postings showed small groups of demonstrators gathering.

A government investigation into the fish deaths is underway but its preliminary probe found no links to Formosa's US$10.6 billion coastal steel plant in Ha Tinh province.

Experts said either a "red tide", when algae blooms and produces toxins, or a release of dangerous chemicals by humans, could have been to blame.

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has promised a thorough investigation and to bring to justice those found to be responsible.

(Reporting by Martin Petty; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

- Reuters

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