THE mysterious deaths of masses fish in Vietnam, which has seen tonnes of carcasses wash up ashore along its coastlines since early April, has cause widespread public outrage and left authorities scrambling to find answers.
The Vietnamese government is reeling in about 100 scientists to help probe the phenomenon, which has affected the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of families from fishing villages there and is said to be an environmental disaster.
Apart from commercial fish, the mass deaths also included large whales and seagulls.
The Environmental Ministry formed a national council to determine the reasons for the huge loss of marine life, which has been traced along a 200-km stretch of coastline in the Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hua provinces.
According to Thanh Nien News, investigators were invited from 30 local institutes and universities. They have also called upon specialists from Israel, Germany and the United States.
Samples of the dead fish and surrounding waters have also been sent to laboratories in Japan, Switzerland, and the U.S. to be put under the microscope.
The ministry has also ruled out plagues, oil spills, thermal shocks and earthquake aftermaths as likely causes for the phenomenon, cited in early reports last month.
The focus of the probe has shifted instead towards biological and chemical substances that may have been responsible for the deaths in four provinces, the news site reported.
Inspectors have also been dispatched to the Vung Ang Economic Zone in Ha Tinh Province to conduct inspections on companies operating there.
Yesterday, some inspectors visited the Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company, of Taiwan, after locals accused them of discharging toxic wastewater.
The company has adamantly denied the accusations numerous times. It may take up to four days for the investigators to probe the company’s wastewater.
The authorities have also pledge to disclose the results of the inspection to the public.
The disaster has caught the attention of the UN Human Rights Office for South-East Asia (OHCHR) who expressed concern on Thursday over the impact of mysterious mass fish deaths.
It said the deaths along Vietnam’s central coast affected the enjoyment of human rights in the country, especially on rights to health and food.
The Regional Office is also concerned about the treatment of those joining protests which erupted over the issue, and called on authorities to respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with international law, reported The Online Citizen.