Fish still sell despite crisis

Wednesday, May 04, 2016 08:06

Fish are sold at a market along Ngo Quyen Street in Da Nang just before the mass fish deaths. Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc assigned tasks to ministries and localities, and ordered that specific measures be deployed to deal with the consequences of massive fish deaths along coastal central provinces and avoid similar environmental disasters. — VNS Photo Thai Ha

HCM CITY (Biz Hub) — After being unable to sell their catches for many days due to the mass fish deaths, fishermen in the central provinces of Ha Tinh and Quang Binh have been thrown a lifeline by businesses coming forward to buy from them.

Saigon Co.op has begun to buy fish caught offshore and certified as safe by authorities at the Gianh River fishing port in Quang Binh.

Vo Hoang Anh, Saigon Co.op's marketing director, said Co.opmart bought around 20 tonnes on Sunday, mainly round scad and blue fish.

The fish were checked, issued safety and hygiene certificates, and identified as being caught offshore by the provincial Department of Fisheries Resources Exploitation and Protection, the Department of Agro-Forestry-Fisheries Quality Assurance and the Department of Food Safety and Hygiene, he said.

Co-opmart's own quality management division also collaborated with agencies and fishing boat owners to get samples tested at the Centre for Quality Assurance of Agro-Forestry and Fisheries Products in region 2, he said.

Last month, massive fish deaths were reported along beaches in four coastal central provinces: Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hue.

As of April 25, as many as 70 tonnes of dead fish were reported.

On April 27, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment announced initial investigations into the incident, blaming it on toxic chemicals released by human activities on land or at sea, along with the red tie phenomenon - when dangerous algae occurs at an abnormal rate and produces toxins.

Hoang Thi Thuan, director of Thuan Loi Co., Ltd, said her company bought five tonnes of various fish and would continue to buy them.

Hoang Nom, owner of a fishing boat, said his boat docked at the Gianh River fishing port with 21 tonnes of fishes, and he was pleased when they were bought by Phuoc Sang Company for nearly VND400 million (US$17,937).

Hoang Thi Huong, director of Phuoc Sang Company, said her company plans to buy a large amount of seafood to support the fishermen.

Nguyen Xuan Dat, head of Quang Binh's Market Management Department, said the province would work to prevent traders from lowering fish prices.

Tran Dinh Du, deputy director of the Quang Binh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said fishermen sold 100 tonnes of seafood on April 30 and May 1, with Saigon Co.op accounting for 20 per cent.

Hundreds of offshore fishing vessels would return in the next few days with possibly thousands of tonnes of fish, and the province would strive to find more outlets for them in other cities and provinces.

"With the support of businesses and traders, fishermen in Quang Binh Province will surely feel secure about going offshore for fishing," Du said.

At Thach Kim fishing port in Ha Tinh Province, seafood trading has returned to normal.

The local Thien Phu Co-operative has promised to take on a share of the fishermen's burdens.

Tran Thi Tu, owner of Toan Tu, a local seafood trader, said she never stopped buying and was prepared to buy any quantity of fish, octopus and cuttlefish.

According to the Ha Tinh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, the department has established a working group of 30 members to direct the sale of seafood and certify its safety.

The Department of Industry and Trade has urged seafood processors to buy more safe fish from local fishermen.

The relief followed a spate of measures taken by the Government in the last few days in the wake of the serious and unusual mass fish deaths that swept the central coastal region in early April.

PM orders solutions

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has assigned tasks to ministries and localities, and ordered that specific measures must be deployed to deal with the consequences of massive fish deaths, and to avoid similar environmental disasters.

He chaired a working session with affected localities on Sunday in the central Ha Tinh Province.

Deputy Prime Ministers Trinh Dinh Dung and Vu Duc Dam, and leaders of ministries and State agencies, were among the attendees at the session.

The Prime Minister urged ministers to seek solutions so that fishermen can continue fishing as usual, while assigning the Ministry of Science and Technology to work with relevant ministries and sectors to determine the cause of the fish deaths and call for help from foreign experts, if necessary.

Violations by any organisation or individual must be brought to light, based upon scientific evidence, he said, adding that the Government was determined to protect the legitimate interests of residents.

Additionally, fishermen would be assisted in terms of materials and fish sales, he said.

In another move, Minister of Natural Resources and Environment (MoNRE) Tran Hong Ha has set up an inspection team, which includes domestic and foreign experts, to independently monitor and analyse wastewater released to the sea by enterprises beginning tomorrow. The inspection will focus on the area around the Vung Ang economic zone in Ha Tinh Province.

The Minister of Science and Technology was asked to co-ordinate with the Viet Nam Academy of Science and Technology and other agencies to reach a scientific and independent conclusion on the causes of the incident, based on which MoNRE will report to the PM in order to impose strict punishments on any violating individuals or organisations.

MoNRE and affected local authorities will re-check all waste-discharging manufacturing bases as well as strengthen the inspection of coastal industrial production facilities.

MoNRE and Ha Tinh authorities must report on the licensing of the Hung Nghiep Formosa Ha Tinh steel company and the supervision of its waste discharge system.

In order to control Formosa's discharge, he suggested immediately placing an automatic monitoring station in the company that connects with a similar one launched by the provincial Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

The Ministry of Public Security will continue investigating cases of environmental violations in the central region while strictly dealing with cases that took advantage of the incident to disturb social safety and order.

The ministries of Health, Agriculture and Rural Development, and Natural Resources and Environment, were asked to publicise a list of safe fishing grounds in mass media outlets.

Affected fishermen will be entitled to debt waivers, rescheduling or reduction, as well as new loans at preferential rates.

The Government leaders also agreed on proposals to offer 22.5kg of rice to each affected household, VND5 million to each fishing vessel and low-cost loans to fishery households. — VNS

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