Posted by: The ocean update | May 8, 2016

Millions of fish die in Vietnam, protesters blame Steel company

Millions of fish, including clams, some whales, washed up ashore in Vietnam causing major outrage. | Photo : Reuters.

Millions of fish, including clams, some whales, washed up ashore in Vietnam causing major outrage. | Photo : Reuters.

May 8th, 2016. People in Hanoi blame a Taiwanese firm that is building a US$10.6-billion coastal steel plant for contaminated the sea and causing the environmental disaster.

Vietnamese police broke up a demonstration in the capital, Hanoi, on Sunday when protesters gathered for the second time in a week to denounce a Taiwanese firm they accuse of causing the death of millions of all types of fishery in central coastal provinces, an incident that is now considered an environmental disaster that threatens the country’s seafood industry.

Hundreds took to the street in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam’s second-largest city, last week to vent their anger at a unit of Taiwan’s Formosa Plastics, even though an official investigation found no links between the fish deaths and Formosa’s US$10.6 billion coastal steel plant.

A group of protesters sat on the bank of a big lake in Hanoi before police shepherded them onto a waiting bus, Reuters witnesses said. Demonstrators were also put on buses at a square in front of the nearby Hanoi Opera House.

Formosa denies any wrongdoing.

Demonstrations are rare in Vietnam and are often quickly suppressed by uniformed and plainclothes police. State-controlled media has not reported any of the demonstrations.

The fish mass deaths emerged a month ago in the central province of Ha Tinh, where the Formosa unit runs the steel plant. Fish also washed ashore in three other provinces along a stretch of 200 km (125 miles).

The government has invited experts from Germany, Japan, the United States and Israel to inspect the Ha Tinh site in an attempt to find the cause that led to the fish deaths.

The inspectors have yet to announce their findings.

The government initially said the cause could be “red tide”, when algae blooms and produces toxins, or a release of toxic chemicals by humans, which is more likely the cause according to scientists.

“Everybody agreed, and even the government knows what the root problem is from the waste, and they know where to find the source of waste,” Nguyen Tac An, the former director of Nha Trang Institute of Oceanography told RFA. “However, to announce the name of the source is the government’s decision.”

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has vowed to investigate any agency, organization or individual that violated the nation’s environmental laws.

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