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Fish die en masse from unknown cause in central Vietnam

Thursday, April 21, 2016, 20:55 GMT+7

Authorities in several central Vietnamese provinces are scratching their heads over the cause behind the mass fish death discovered along the coastline and at local fish farms.

Representatives from the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development met with authorities in Ha Tinh Province on Wednesday afternoon to address the mysterious death of farm-raised and wild fish in the sea area in Ky Anh Town.

Several citizens also report that their farm-raised shrimp and clams died after the farmers pumped sea water into their ponds, Nguyen Cong Hoang, head of the Ha Tinh Aquaculture Division, said at the gathering.

Inspectors from the Center for Environment and Disease Monitoring in Aquaculture in northern Vietnam had taken samples of the dead fish, fish feed, and water in the areas.

“According to the center, the mass death was caused by environmental factors. However, the exact pollutants responsible for the situation have not been pinpointed,” Hoang stated.

Vo Thi Minh Nguyet, an official from the Ha Tinh Department of Natural Resources and Environment, said that the content of water samples taken in areas near where the fish died was within normal limits.

“To identify the specific toxic that caused the death of the marine animals requires the coordination of all competent agencies,” Le Duc Nhan, deputy director of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, asserted.

Several people in the coastal area of Ky Anh Town who have experience the situation on their own fish farms have expressed their agony.

Vo Huu Duat, a local fish farmer, said his fish started dying on April 6, adding that he and his family had had to borrow tens of millions of dong (VND10 million = US$448.6) to begin his operation.

“A total of 500 kilograms of my fish have died and I was not able to save any of them,” Duat complained.

According to Nguyen Thai Thao, another fish farmer, over 4,000 of her farm-raised fish were fine on April 6 but started to die en masse in the afternoon, following a rising tide.

“We will suffer heavy losses if we keep our operations under this circumstance,” Thao continued.

Several meters of the coastline in the area were also filled with dead bodies of wild fish and overwhelmed with their unpleasant smells, according to the observation of Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper reporters.

Several constructions have been put into operation near the coastal area, including two thermal power plants and a steel factory, a local official said.

Citizens have been blaming pollution brought about by these facilities for the death of the fish, he added.

Similar deaths in neighboring provinces

The situation seems to be more severe in the coastal areas in Quang Binh and Quang Tri Provinces, where larger numbers of dead fish have also been reported.

“The beach was packed with dead fish bodies and local people had to work in teams to bury them,” Le Van Hoa, a local fisher, said.

A single person can gather 100 kilograms of the succumbed fishes of all species in an afternoon, some of which were as heavy as 10 kilograms each, Hoa added.

Activities of fishermen and fish sellers in the region have been seriously affected as local citizens have stopped buying the products for fear of food poisoning.

Examinations showed that the marine animals were killed by some poisonous substance unidentifiable to local authorities, said Tran Dinh Du, deputy director of the Quang Binh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The worrying reality has also been discovered in Thua Thien-Hue Province some three days ago as local citizens began picking up dead fish along the beach to feed their poultry and cattle.

A majority of fishers in the province have decided to cease their activities, believing that no one will purchase their catches amid the current circumstances.

According to the report from the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the mass fish death was caused by polluted sea water, whose phosphate content and pH level were higher than recommended.

The analysis also ruled out the possibility the aquatic animals were killed by some sort of epidemic.

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