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Fish farming hit hard by oil slicks

VIET NAM - Showing oil clods and dead shellfish on the beach last Friday, Khong Van Hung, chairman of Bao Thuan Village in Ben Tre Provinces Ba Tri District, said that 1,500 tons of shellfish along a five-kilometer coastline has been lost.

Shellfish found dead on the beach of Bao Thuan Village, Ba Tri District, Ben Tre Province on Friday.

Another oil spill was discovered in the morning of Friday by villagers, damaging some 15% of the shellfish there. The village might face a loss of some VND15bil if the shellfish keep dying, Hung told the Daily.

Bao Thuan is a poverty-stricken village where 2,385 families mainly live on fish farming, with each family earning some VND2.3mil a year. In the desperate hope of keeping the left shellfish alive, the villagers rushed to collect the oil early Saturday.

In recent days, an oil slick has also hit the beach of Thoi Thuan Village, Binh Dai District that is next to Ba Tri District, killing some 2,500 tons of shellfish.

Nguyen Quoc Dung, head of Rang Dong Aquaculture Cooperative in Thoi Thuan Village, said the revenue target of the cooperative for 2007 was VND30.3bil but the massive deaths of shellfish these days had caused a loss of some VND25bil, Dung said.

Nguyen Ngoc Hung, a member of the cooperative and the father of six, said that last month each member of his family got some VND250,000 from shellfish collection, but now the massive deaths of shellfish were making their life uncertain.

“I have spent nearly 30 years living on shellfish collection, but now I don’t know what to do to support my family if there are no shellfish left in coming days,” Hung said in a low tone.

Many families around the village also expressed a mood of uncertainty.

Mai Thi Mum, a 60-year-old villager who had borrowed VND25mil for shellfish cultivation, said she started farming shellfish in May last year with harvest expected in May this year, but at the moment, 70% of her shellfish was killed. “I don’t know how to pay the debt,” she said.

There were still oil stains on the rocks and many oil clods scattering along the beach of Tan Thanh Village, Go Cong Dong District, Tien Giang Province in March 31.

Tan Thanh Beach is one of the biggest tourist areas in Tien Giang Province. It is attractive to tourists who like seafood and the sea.

Nguyen Dang Khoa, chief of Tan Thanh Sea Tourist Area, said Saturday that the area received some 200 tourists a day on the weekends and that revenue for 2007 was estimated at some VND2bil.

“If the oil slicks keep hitting the beach in the coming days, it can affect the area’s business,” Khoa said.

According to the National Search and Rescue Committee, mystery oil spills have affected 14 coastal provinces in the country’s central and southern regions since January. More than 1,400 tons of oil has been collected so far.