2016 Vietnam marine life disaster

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2016 Vietnam marine life disaster
Date6 April 2016 (2016-04-06)
LocationHà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces, Vietnam
CauseLarge source of toxin from factory complex of Formosa Ha Tinh Company.
Deaths1 diver + 115 tons of dead fish drift along the coast, 140 tons of fish and 67 tons of clam raised
Non-fatal injuries450 hectares of coral reefs have been damaged from 40 to 60%
SuspectsFormosa Ha Tinh Steel

The 2016 Vietnam marine life disaster was a water pollution crisis affecting Hà Tĩnh, Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế provinces in central Vietnam.

Fish carcasses were reported to have washed up on the beaches of Hà Tĩnh province from at least 6 April 2016.[1] Later, a large number of dead fish were found on the coast of Hà Tĩnh and three other provinces (Quảng Bình, Quảng Trị and Thừa Thiên–Huế) until 18 April 2016.[2] Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a steel plant built by the Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics, discharged toxic industrial waste illegally into the ocean through drainage pipes.[3] After denying responsibility for months, Formosa accepted responsibility for the fish deaths on 30 June 2016.[4]

The massive marine life destruction led to a number of protests by Vietnamese citizens in some cities on 1 May 2016, calling for a cleaner environment and demanding transparency in the investigation process.[5]


The Formosa steel plant is suspected to be the source of the toxic chemical waste.[6] The company admitted that there was a sewage pipe connecting the plant and the ocean and it was reported that several days before the incident, 300 tonnes (300 long tons; 330 short tons) of chemicals were imported by Formosa in order to clean the pipe.[7] Formosa was later ordered by Vietnamese authorities to remove those sewage pipes.[8] However, the Vietnamese government denied that the Formosa steel plant was linked to the disaster.[9][10]

Vietnamese scientists largely agreed that the source of toxins was from the Vũng Áng Economic Zone, in which the Formosa steel plant was located; meanwhile, the Vietnamese government was accused of concealing the findings from the public.[11]

In a press conference held on 27 April, Võ Tuấn Nhân, the Deputy Minister of Natural Resources and Environment, claimed that the two main suspects of the marine life destruction were red tide and toxins generated by people.[12] However, the red tide explanation was quickly rejected by the Vietnamese Fisheries Society.[13][14]

At 5:00 PM on 30 June 2016, the Government Office held a press conference to announce the causes and perpetrators of this particularly serious environmental disaster. Accordingly, the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry and other relevant units have checked and discovered violations regarding Formosa discharging toxic waste into the sea waste water containing toxins exceeding the permitted level. Based on the ground-level investigation, "the Vietnamese authorities along with the participation of scientists had concluded that Formosa was responsible for this environment pollution that led to marine life disaster."[15]

Effects and responses[edit]

Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, claimed that the massive marine life destruction was “the most serious environmental disaster Vietnam has ever faced”.[16]

By 29 April, approximately 80 tonnes (79 long tons; 88 short tons) of fish carcasses had been washed up to the shores of four central provinces of Vietnam from Hà Tĩnh to Thừa Thiên–Huế.[17] On 6 May, the amount of collected fish carcasses surpassed 100 tonnes (98 long tons; 110 short tons).[18]

The disaster disrupted the livelihood of fishermen in four provinces in the central coast of Vietnam. On 4 May 2016, Vietnamese government had announced a ban of processing and selling seafood caught within 20 nautical miles of central Vietnam provinces, just one day after the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment had claimed that the seafood in the region met safety standards.[19]

According to the local government of Quảng Bình, the fishermen of this province had already lost $5.2 million; in addition, the disaster also heavily impacted the tourism industry as nearly 30% tourists cancelled their planned tours to the affected provinces for the national holiday season starting on 30 April.[20]


On 5 March 2017, protesters gathered on Nguyễn Du Street and in front of the Ho Chi Minh City post office. Police tried to disperse the protesters. Overseas Vietnamese also joined in protest around the world, demanding greater action about Formosa and protesting police abuse of protesters.

Government response[edit]

The Vietnamese government has cracked down on protests, including arresting Nguyễn Văn Hoá, a journalist who covered the Formosa protests.[21] He was charged for "conducting propaganda against the state" under Article 88 of the Vietnamese Penal Code and sentenced to seven years prison.[22] Lê Đình Lượng, another citizen journalist, was arrested for "activities attempting to overthrow the state" in July 2017.[23] He was later sentenced to 20 years prison and 5 years house arrest in August 2018.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ho Binh Minh (28 April 2016). "Vietnam, grappling with mass fish deaths, clamps down on seafood sales". Reuters. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  2. ^ Diep Pham; Mai Ngoc Chau (2 May 2016). "Beaches of Dead Fish Test New Vietnam Government's Response". Bloomberg. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  3. ^ "Vietnam protest over mystery fish deaths". BBC. 1 May 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  4. ^ Steve Mullman (30 June 2016). "A Taiwanese Steel Plant Caused Vietnam's Mass Fish Deaths the Government Says". Quartz. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  5. ^ Vu Trong Khanh (1 May 2016). "Vietnam Protesters Seek Answers Over Mass Fish Death". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  6. ^ Christopher Zara (30 April 2016). "Vietnam Dead Fish Crisis: Critics Blast Formosa Plastics As Environmental Disaster Devastates Region". International Business Times. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  7. ^ Ha Tinh (27 April 2016). "Taiwanese firm apologizes for official's callous remarks on mass fish deaths". Thanh Nien News. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  8. ^ Ho Binh Minh (29 April 2016). "Vietnam tells Taiwan firm to dig up waste pipe amid 'huge' coastal disaster". Reuters. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  9. ^ Ho Binh Minh; Mai Nguyen (27 April 2016). "Vietnam says no proof Formosa steel plant linked to large-scale marine life destruction". Reuters. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  10. ^ Tan Qiuyi (27 April 2016). "No link between Vietnam fish deaths and steel plant: Environment Ministry". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  11. ^ "As Vietnam's fish kill scandal grows, a scientist says the cause is known". Asia Times. 3 May 2016. Archived from the original on 8 May 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ "Algae and Toxins, Not Steel Mill Waste, Blamed for Vietnamese Fish Kill". Radio Free Asia. 27 April 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  13. ^ Pham Huong (29 April 2016). ""Red tide" not to blame for mass fish death: Vinafis". VnExpress. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  14. ^ "Vietnam Minister Apologizes For 'Confused' And 'Slow' Response to Fish Crisis". Radio Free Asia. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  15. ^ VnExpress. "Bộ trưởng Trần Hồng Hà: 'Tôi vừa trải qua 84 ngày căng thẳng nặng trĩu' - VnExpress" (in Vietnamese). Retrieved 30 June 2016.
  16. ^ Mai Ngoc Chau; Yu-Huay Sun (4 May 2016). "Fish Death Crisis Prompts Vietnam Waste Water Probe". Blooomberg. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  17. ^ "Panoramic view of mass fish death in central Vietnam". Vietnamnet. 29 April 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  18. ^ "Vietnam's environmental disaster has killed at least 100 tons of fish: official". Thanh Nien News. 6 May 2016. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  19. ^ Tra Mi (5 May 2016). "Vietnam Bans Unsafe Seafood in Central Provinces". Voice of America. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  20. ^ Diep Ngoc Pham; Mai Ngoc Chau (2 May 2016). "Vietnam's beaches littered with dead fish test country's new government". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 8 May 2016.
  21. ^ "Vietnamese Activist Charged With 'Abusing Democratic Freedoms'". Radio Free Asia. Retrieved 14 April 2017.
  22. ^ "Vietnamese environmental blogger jailed". BBC News. 28 November 2017. Retrieved 13 January 2018.
  23. ^ "Vietnam: Drop Charges Against Environmental Activist". Human Rights Watch. 26 July 2018. Retrieved 13 August 2018.
  24. ^ Reuters Editorial. "Vietnam sentences activist to 20 years prison amid dissent crackdown". U.S. Retrieved 22 August 2018.