Aquatic animals raised by farmers in Kien Giang Province in Vietnam’s Mekong Delta are dying en masse from unknown causes, damaging the livelihoods of local residents.
Fish and clam farmers along a 20 kilometer section of the coast in Thuan Yen Commune, Ha Tien Town, Kien Giang Province, are in shock and despair after finding their livestock decimated.
A meeting was called by Dang Tuyet Em, deputy secretary of the provincial Party Committee, on Wednesday afternoon to address the situation.
During the gathering, Em tasked the local agricultural authority with collecting water and soil samples for evaluation and to determine the cause of the mass death.
According to Ong Vinh Kim, one of the affected farmers, dead fish first started washing ashore on the afternoon of May 6.
The situation worsened the next morning when more fish from a wider range of species were found dead.
Kim told other members in his cooperative to harvest all the clams they were farming, despite the fact that they were not fully grown.
Their efforts were in vain and by the morning of May 8, the entire crop of clams raised by farmers in the neighborhood had been dead.
Kim stated he lost some VND2 billion (US$87,698) to the catastrophe.
Shrimp farmers in Thuan Yen Commune are now worried that their operations will suffer the same fate.
Ly Van Ho, 31, a local shrimp famer, said he has spent over VND100 million ($4,384) pumping water and purchasing chemicals to improve the condition of his shrimp farm.
Meanwhile, Tran Van Dong, a 60-year-old fisherman with over 20 years of experience, said that wild fish, crabs, and clams were also washing up along the coast.
According to Dong, when two seafood factories opened in the area some three years ago, the sea began to change color and cause itchiness during dry seasons.
Thuan Yen is not the only commune to feel the effects of the fish deaths, with some communes in Kien Luong District also reporting similar situations.
About 282 metric tons of clams and 14,000 farm-raised fish have been killed in the catastrophe, said Le Thanh Huong, vice-chairman of the Kien Luong People’s Committee.
Initial measurements show that pH, oxygen, and nitrogen dioxide levels in the water are within normal limits, leaving experts scratching their heads over the possible cause of the situation.
Meanwhile, a representative of the Kien Luong environmental office said local residents attribute the problem to the two seafood factories, despite there being no solid evidence to back that claim.
The official did not rule out the possibility that the mass death was caused by pollution from cement production across Kien Luong District.
According to Nguyen Van Tam, director of the Kien Giang Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, an investigation has been initiated.
“We cannot blame any specific business for the problem because the cause has not been determined. Once the result is in, those responsible will have to compensate for the damages,” Tam asserted.
Local residents have been asked to bury the dead fish and not to consume them, while it was recommended that farmers relocate their farms to other sea areas.