‘Organic pollution’ behind mass lobster deaths in south-central Vietnam: authorities

Water pollution caused by the accumulation of organic matter was responsible for mass lobster deaths at farms in south-central Vietnam in May, local authorities announced on Wednesday.

The administration of Phu Yen Province chaired a press briefing to announce its official conclusion on the cause of mass lobster deaths at farms in the province.

Lobsters raised on farms in Xuan Dai Bay, Song Cau District, Phu Yen, began dying on May 24 after a heavy downpour that followed a long period of heat.

Between May 24 and June 6, over 1.6 million lobsters at farms owned by 693 households in the district were reported dead from unknown causes, according to statistics unveiled on Wednesday by Le Dao An Xuan, deputy director of Phu Yen’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.

Economic losses from the lobster deaths are estimated at hundreds of billions of Vietnamese dong, Xuan added.

According to Xuan, the department conducted lab tests on water samples collected from the affected areas and found that the lobsters died in droves due to the heavy accumulation of ‘organic matter,’ which polluted the crustaceans’ living environment.

“At the end of May and beginning of June, continuous days of sunlight followed by a sudden downpour caused water temperatures to rise, creating a favorable condition for the decomposition of ‘organic matter’ and proliferation of microphytes,” Xuan explained. “These microscopic algae consumed a large amount of dissolved oxygen in the water, leading to oxygen depletion which, coupled with the farms’ overcrowded lobster population, caused the animals to die in droves.”

Phu Yen’s administration rejected any link between the dumping of wastewater by the local Nguyen Hung seafood processing facility and the lobster deaths, citing investigation results by provincial police and an interdepartmental team of inspectors.

“These findings are in line with those reached by a mission from the Department of Environment in Central and Central Highlands Regions under the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment,” Xuan said.

The provincial administration also demanded the re-organization of local lobster farms to guarantee adherence to the detailed planning in aquaculture at Xuan Dai Bay.

The number of lobster cages and their density are to be strictly monitored to prevent such incidents from recurring in the future, it said.

The local branch of the State Bank of Vietnam will work with commercial banks to aggregate loans taken by locals to invest in their lobster farms and work out suitable plans to provide financial support for the distressed farm owners.

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