Vietnam protests over fish deaths

The dying fish are devastating Vietnam’s fishing industry. Source: Wikimedia

Environmental campaigners in Vietnam have held banners reading, “Formosa destroys the environment” during a march through Hanoi.

Hundreds held a rare protest against the unexplained death of fish on Vietnam’s central coast.

Schools of dead fish have appeared along around 200km of coast in the last month.

An official investigation has uncovered no links to a steel plant owned by Taiwan’s firm Formosa Plastics.

The factory is accused of releasing untreated wastewater into the sea, EFE news reported.

Many of the demonstrators in Hanoi blamed the company, carrying signs saying “Formosa out”.

Other placards said “Formosa. Destroying the environment is a crime” and “Who poisoned the central region’s waters?”

Hanoi’s Environment Minister Tran Hong Ha said the die-off was “a very huge and serious environment disaster” and admitted that the authorities had been slow to address the crisis.

He added that Taiwanese company had been ordered to dig up an illegal waste pipe at its factory. The firm announced that there was no evidence to link it to the die-off. Investigations are continuing.

Protests are rare in Vietnam and Sunday’s demonstration was probably allowed because it targeted foreign interests.

Fisherman Nguyen Xuan Thanh told the Tuoi Tre newspaper that he saw “muddy yellow” water being discharged from the pipe just days before dead fish were first reported on April 6.

He said the wastewater “smelled so bad that I felt suffocated”.

Chou Chun Fan, Formosa Ha Tinh’s external relations manager, who has since been removed, caused further outrage when he announced that Vietnam had to choose between industry and fishing.  “You can’t have both,” the spokesperson said.

“Here is Vietnam’s territory and there shall never be any case in which a Formosa steel plant has the right to tell the Vietnamese people to choose,” said protester Cao Vinh Thinh in Hanoi.

The hash tag #toichonca, or “I choose fish” has been tending on Twitter.

Fishermen along the blighted coast are banned from selling their catches but the authorities said exports, that generate US$6.6 billion a year, would be unaffected.