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[Video] Vung Tau Fish Farmers Block Traffic to Protest Fish Kill

Fish farmers in Ba Ria-Vung Tau province took to the streets yesterday to protest industrial pollution, dragging dead fish onto the province’s Highway 51.

According to Thanh Nien, the farmers gathered near Long Son junction around 9am, dragging dead fish – many of them weighing five kilos or more – tied to strings onto the highway and sitting down in the middle of the road to block traffic.

Police were quick to re-route vehicles traveling between Saigon and Ba Ria-Vung Tau, however traffic at Long Son remained congested while the fish farmers staged their protest, which was prompted by a recent mass fish death on the Cha Va River.

Video via Thanh Nien.

According to Tien Phong, fish farmers claim a large fish die-off occurred from October 10-12 as a result of industrial pollution from nearby seafood processing facilities. This is not the first time Ba Ria-Vung Tau locals have gone through this, reports VnExpress, as farmers experienced a fish kill in September of 2015 which resulted in damages of roughly US$800,000.

At the time of last year’s fish die-off, locals held a similar protest outside local government offices. An investigation by the Institute of Environment and Natural Resources later found that seafood processing facilities had dumped untreated waste into the local water supply, prompting 33 fish farming households to file a class action lawsuit last May.

In the lawsuit, farmers asked for total compensation of VND14 billion (US$627,800), reports Tien Phong, however according to VnExpress, so far only two companies have been willing to pay VND300 million (US$13,450) in damages.

“They have not only ignored the lawsuit, they are causing more pollution,” one protestor told the news outlet.

According to Thanh Nien, police at the scene of the protest encouraged fish farmers to visit the Ba Ria-Vung Tau People’s Committee and take up their complaints with provincial authorities. The farmers declined, only ending their protest around noon when Vice Chairman Nguyen Thanh Tinh of the People’s Committee came down in person to invite protestors to the government office.

Though there are few details regarding the discussion which took place at the administration building, Vice Chairman Tinh told Thanh Nien the province is still counting the number of dead fish in the Cha Va River and plans to announce the results of its investigation later this week.

The Cha Va fish deaths are the latest in a string of mass fish kills throughout Vietnam. Last April, scores of dead fish washed up on the shores of central Vietnam, impacting the livelihoods of local fishermen and farmers alike. The Taiwanese steel firm Formosa was later found to be the culprit of the mass fish kill and pledged to pay US$500 million in damages to the affected households. Elsewhere in Vietnam, urban centers like Hanoi and Saigon have experienced regular fish deaths after bouts of heavy rain, while rural communities, such as fish farmers along Thanh Hoa province's Buoi River, have also suffered as a result of industrial pollution.

[Photo via Tuoi Tre]

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