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Red alert against alien farming
Son Nguyen
Friday,  Feb 10, 2017,19:21 (GMT+7)

Red alert against alien farming

Son Nguyen

An alarm is sounded these days when the threat of an alien creature farmed in the Mekong Delta that may do harm to local agriculture makes headlines in local media. The alien creature is the red swamp crayfish, but is commonly referred to by locals as the red lobster due to the resemblance between the two. The emergence of the crayfish renders a red alert, not only because of the possible damage the creature can cause to local farming, but also because numerous lessons in the past have not been learned.

As covered in local media, locals in Tan Hoi Trung Commune in Dong Thap Province’s Cao Lanh District have recently discovered the red crayfish being farmed in a field of lotus belonging to Hoang Giang Lotus Company.

All really began nearly a year ago when Hanoi-based Hoang Giang Lotus Company leased land from local farmers for a project to grow lotus for export. Vo Trung Kien, an agriculture official of Cao Lanh District, explains in Tuoi Tre newspaper that the company applied for a project to grow lotus over an area of 20 hectares in the district. Soon, paddy fields were replaced by lotus farms there.

However, late last year, local people accidentally saw the red creature in the lotus farm. News on the strange creature was reported, and local authorities have rushed to look into the issue.

The creature, as mentioned early on, was then identified as red swamp crayfish, an alien creature still banned from rearing in the country.

On December 6, 2016, local authorities destroyed a batch of 33 live crayfish and 55 dead ones collected from the company’s farm, and four days later, another batch of 19 crayfish, including seven collected from outside the farm, was destroyed, according to Tuoi Tre.

Tran Van Hoa, director of the company, explained that he himself raised the creature in the farm. “I did not know that this lobster was not allowed. A friend of mine gave me four kilos of this, saying this type of lobster would grow well in the south, so I gave it a try,” he is quoted as saying in Tuoi Tre.

Nguyen Van Cong, director of Dong Thap Province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, says on Dan Viet news site that the crayfish is an alien creature not allowed for rearing in Vietnam, and upon discovering this creature, authorities have quickly prevented it from spreading by destroying all that are found. “The ban has stood for long, and any organization or individual found to raise this creature, tough measures will be taken,” he says on Dan Viet.

Meanwhile, Pham Minh Chi, one inspector with Dong Thap Province’s Fishery Division, says that the crayfish originally from America may pose dangers greater than the yellow snail, also an alien creature brought into Vietnam over a decade ago and having devastated crops.

“Damages caused by the crayfish could be immense, as they may wreak havoc on the system of canals and ditches by burrowing their caves, and adversely impact the domestic ecosystem, since these crayfish feed on any type of bio-products. Furthermore, they can also spread diseases to other domestic creatures,” Chi says on Dan Viet, further explaining that the crayfish can multiply quickly, as it can roam the dry field like crabs, and can endure harsh weather like drought.

According to Mot The Gioi news site, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development in 2017 established a team to evaluate a thesis on breeding crayfish in northern Vietnam. Later, the crayfish was farmed in Phu Tho Province on a trial basis, and ever since, it has still been considered an alien creature banned in the country.

Nguyen Quang Huy, deputy director of Fishery Farming Institute No. 1, explains in Vietnamnet that the crayfish is banned because of its low economic value while the damage could be huge.

It is fearsome that no one can say whether the crayfish has spread in the wide environment or not, or if it can cause huge damage to crops in the future, as is the case of the yellow snail, or many other types of alien creatures in the past. The yellow snail, introduced into the country over a decade ago for meat, has now spread throughout the country, devastating crops in an uncontainable manner, forcing farmers and local governments to spend big to kill them.

Vietnamnet also refers to numerous alien creatures having been illegally raised in Vietnam. These include a type of earth cockroach from China farmed in Bac Ninh to be used in cosmetic products, another type of earth worm raised as feed for ornamental birds, some types of fish, or the red-ear tortoise whose fast growth in the country has sparked outcries among fish farmers.

Such lessons in the recent past have not been learned, as seen in the emergence of the crayfish in the Mekong Delta. Now that the alarm has been rung, efforts should be quickly taken, not only to prevent this alien creature from developing into an epidemic, but also to ensure that control is tightened so that a similar mistake is not repeated.

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