Environment minister reassures sea is safe but seafood quality remains unclear

NDO—Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Tran Hong Ha has reaffirmed that the coastal waters of four central provinces hit by Formosa’s toxic discharge are safe, but he expressed uncertainty about whether seafood caught in the area is safe to eat.

Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Tran Hong Ha
Minister of Natural Resources and the Environment Tran Hong Ha

He told the National Assembly (NA) on November 16 that this conclusion, first announced on August 22, was based on independent analyses carried out by both domestic and foreign agencies.

The ministry reasserted its conclusion on September 22 after regular monitoring suggested that marine environment indicators were within acceptable limits.

And for the third time, Minister Ha has stated that the sea is now is safe for tourism, sports and aquaculture, based on the results of analyses of seabed sediment and water from different layers of the sea.

But he said the Ministry of Health was still working with various labs throughout the world to determine the toxicity of seafood caught in the area and that current catches must still undergo testing at the hands of the relevant authorities.

Replying to an NA deputy’s question as to why no violation had been exposed when the company was inspected in 2015, Minister Ha said the inspection took place from June to September, when construction was still underway, so no infringement was discovered.

In April, the marine ecosystem in central Vietnam was found to have been severely damaged after massive amounts of dead fish washed ashore in the four provinces of Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien–Hue.

A Government investigation later found that the culprit was Formosa Ha Tinh Steel Company which had secretly discharged toxic waste directly into the sea.

The company admitted its responsibility and promised to pay US$500 million to pay for economic damage, to support local fishermen, to address pollution and to restore the marine environment.