Vietnamese officials have banned the processing or selling of dead seafood washed ashore or caught in an area along the country’s central coast.
The ban relates to fish and other sea creatures caught within 20 nautical miles of a mysterious fish kill.
Vietnam’s agriculture and rural development agency announced the measure earlier this week. The agency also set guidelines for destroying possibly bad seafood. But officials did not expand on measures to deal with violations.
The Vietnamese government has been investigating the fish kill. Large numbers of fish began dying nearly a month ago at fish farms and in waters along four central provinces.
At first, the government said the cause of the fish kill could be a “red tide.” Red tides happen naturally when algae become so numerous that they discolor the water. The government also said that harmful chemicals from human activities could have been responsible for the deaths.
State media have tied the event to what were said to be the release of toxic materials from a steel factory built by Taiwan's Formosa Plastics (TFP). Last month, the company said there is no evidence that wastewater from its steel plant was to blame.
Vietnamese officials have said that establishing the exact cause of the toxins will take time.
The new ban was announced a day after the environmental and health ministries said seawater and seafood in the four affected provinces met safety rules.
Many people are afraid bad fish collected from the coastal waters have entered Vietnam’s food supply. That fueled anger on social media. Rare public demonstrations have taken place across the country and in other Southeast Asian nations.
"The government’s responses and acts are inappropriate since the people want to know what caused these mass fish deaths," Hanoi resident La Viet Dung told VOA's Vietnamese Service. "It’s been a month now, but they haven’t provided us with an…answer which makes us doubtful. This is either due to their weak governance, or they are trying to hide something.”
This week, nearly 140,000 Vietnamese nationals signed a petition urging the United States to launch an independent investigation of the disaster. The call came just weeks before U.S. President Barack Obama makes his first visit to Vietnam.
I’m Marsh James.
Words in This Story
ashore – adv. on or to the shore of an ocean, sea, lake or river
fish kill – n. a mass death among the fish population of a given area caused by pollution or other contaminants
red tide – n. a discoloration of seawater caused by a bloom of toxic red organisms
algae – n. simple plants that have no leaves or stems and that grow in or near water
petition – n. a written document that people sign to show that they want a person or organization to do or change something