Taiwan Company Under Fire for Fish Kill in Vietnam

officials could not have anticipated the unprecedented scale of the disaster. ~deputy prime minister, Trinh Dinh Dung

A Taiwanese-owned steel mill in Vietnam’s Ha Tinh Province is being blamed for a marine ecological disaster after tonnes of dead fish washed up near a waste-water pipeline that extends 1.5 kilometers into the sea. Vietnam’s normally staid state-media is on the attack (The Nation).

Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation operates as a subsidiary of Formosa Plastics Corporation (Bloomberg).

According to media reports in Vietnam, a spokesperson for the company shocked the Vietnamese when he asked them to consider whether they valued marine life or foreign investment in the area more.

“You cannot have both,” Chou Chun-fan, Formosa Ha Tinh’s external relations manager said in an interview on Vietnam’s state-run VTC14 television channel.

“(You) need to choose whether to catch fish and shrimp or to build a state-of-the-art steel mill,” he said, according to a video of the interview posted online.

The reports also claim that the company imported 300 tonnes of toxic chemicals to clean the waste-water pipeline, a shipment the Vietnam Environment Administration said it was not informed of.

Top politicians have said they will consider requesting international help to determine exactly what is killing the fish, and have vowed to bring anyone responsible for the disaster to justice.

“There will be no exceptions,” Deputy Prime Minister Trinh Dinh Dung said, according to a statement posted on the government’s website. (TUOI TRE NEWS – THE NEWS GATEWAY OF VIETNAM ).

On Tuesday, Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Corporation attempted to distance itself from the controversial statements made by Chou Chun-fan. The company sent a letter to media outlets in which it claimed the interview given by the executive was unauthorized and his views did not reflect those of the company.

“Our commitment is to contribute to the development of Vietnam’s industry and comply with Vietnam’s law, protecting the environment,” the letter stated.

Meanwhile, the government is urging people not to eat the fish after reports that some locals are treating the fish-kill as a bounty. It is claimed that refrigerated trucks had shown up and traders were buying dead fish collected by the locals. (Radio Free Asia)

Dead fish in the ocean were first reported on in a Facebook post on April 2, and the government has been criticized for its slow response. Fishermen reported that they saw a yellow discharge from the pipe, and analysis of the water showed a high phosphate and pH levels.

Dead fish are being reported washed up on the beach for ‘hundreds of kilometers’, and the deputy prime minister, Trinh Dinh Dung described the scale of the disaster as ‘unprecedented’.

In Taiwan, the parent company, Formosa Plastics Group said: “We are completely surprised and sorry to learn of the incident … At this point, we cannot understand what has caused the death of the fish.”

“We monitor the wastewater system 24 hours a day and seven days a week,” a company spokesperson told the Nikkei Asian Review. “It is impossible that we would discharge wastewater that did not meet Vietnamese national standards.” (Nikkei Asian Review)

A Vietnamese villager shows dead fish washed up on the beach
A villager holds up dead fish washed up on a beach near a newly-constructed steel mill in Ha Tinh Province, Vietnam, April 2016. Photo: AFP

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