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Fish quality in central Vietnam remains unclear following mass deaths

Tuesday, August 23, 2016, 10:38 GMT+7

Fishermen in Vietnam’s central provinces continue to struggle as there has still not been a conclusive response from authorities over whether fish sourced from the coastline is edible.

The Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, in coordination with relevant institutions, organized a conference in the north-central province of Quang Tri on Monday to report on the maritime environment in central provinces, four months after the region was embroiled in the mass fish death controversy.

A large number of dead fish were washed ashore in the central provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri, and Thua Thien-Hue in early April.

In late June, it was concluded following a series of examinations from local and international scientists that wastewater of the Vietnamese steel subsidiary of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics Group was responsible for the environmental disaster.

Minister of Naural Resources and Environment Tran Hong Ha concluded at the meeting that most of the central waters are now safe for swimming and aquaculture activities, with some exceptions.

However, the overall edibility of seafood from the region remains unclear with experts confirming that further tests were underway.

Local fishermen were happy at the positive improvement of the marine environment but were still concerned over their unstable livelihood given the question marks still hanging over the safety of their fish.

In an interview with Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper, Duong Tat Thang, vice-chairman of the People’s Committee in Ha Tinh, said that shoppers were still shying away from purchasing local seafood.

“Though fish caught from 20 nautical miles offshore has been confirmed as safe, consumers can still question its credibility,” Thang said.

Fishers in the four provinces have complained about the cheap price of seafood and absence of buyers.

“We [the fishermen] are the primary consumers of our own catches as the fish can now only be  sold for one-third of the price we could fetch prior to the disaster,” Chu Van Thuy, a fisherman from Ha Tinh, elaborated.

Nguyen Van Buoi, from Thua Thien-Hue Province, said that his boat had not left harbour since April as he had been forced to look for other jobs elsewhere.

Huynh Thi Thu, owner of a seafood diner in Thua Thien-Hue, said that she previously earned up to VND7 million (US$314) per day, but no one had come to the venue since the incident.

According to Nguyen Thi Thanh, a fisherman in Quang Binh Province, there has been a drastic drop in the number of seafood merchants and sellers.

“This is not a surprise. Nobody has confirmed that the sea is completely clean,” Thanh stated.

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