Mass Fish Die-Off in Vietnam Amid Southeast Asia Heatwave

A fisherman collecting dead fish caused by renovation works and the ongoing hot weather conditions from a reservoir in southern Vietnam's Dong Nai province on Apr 30, 2024. (Photo: AFP/STR)
Mass fish die-off in Vietnam as heatwave roasts Southeast Asia. About 200 metric tons of dead fish were collected from Song May Reservoir in Dong Nai Province, southern Vietnam. 
In Vietnam’s Dong Nai province, the brutal heatwave sweeping Southeast Asia is taking a devastating toll, as evidenced by a massive fish die-off at the Song May reservoir. Hundreds of thousands of fish have perished due to extreme temperatures and problematic reservoir management, wreaking havoc on local communities. One resident of Trang Bom district, referred to simply as Nghia, reported, “All the fish in the Song May reservoir died for lack of water,” adding that the stench has upended their lives over the last ten days.


Images circulating show locals navigating the 300-hectare reservoir, which is scarcely visible beneath a thick layer of deceased fish. Reports indicate a prolonged dry spell has left the reservoir critically low, unable to support its aquatic life. Despite efforts to save the situation, including water discharges to aid downstream crops and attempts to clear mud, the fish could not be saved. Local media suggest that as much as two hundred tonnes of fish have died.
About 200 metric tons of dead fish were collected from Song May Reservoir in Dong Nai Province, southern Vietnam (photo A Loc / Tuoi Tre)
Photo : A Loc/ Tuoi Tre
The reservoir management’s early 2024 dredging plans were disrupted by the heatwave, leading to inadequate water levels for fish survival. This reservoir serves as a crucial water source for agriculture in the surrounding districts, and authorities are now scrambling to address the environmental disaster.
This ecological crisis coincides with record-breaking temperatures across the region. In Dong Nai province, which lies about 100 kilometers west of Ho Chi Minh City, temperatures reached around 40 degrees Celsius in April, surpassing the previous high set in 1998. Neighboring Cambodia has reacted by instructing schools to close or adjust hours to protect against the heat. Thailand, too, has seen a significant surge in electricity use as citizens try to cope with the scorching temperatures.

The Critical Role of Heat Health Research

The ongoing crisis underscores the vital importance of heat-related health research. Ms. Lydia Law, co-director of the Heat Resilience and Performance Centre at the National University of Singapore’s Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine, emphasized the need for enhanced research to aid those living in the heat-stricken region. She advocates for more nuanced understanding and preparedness to mitigate the dire impacts of heatwaves.
Governments are urged to support initiatives from the ground up to address this pressing issue. Ms. Law highlighted the “boiling frog syndrome,” describing the gradual acclimation to rising temperatures which often delays critical action until it is too late. This metaphor serves as a stark reminder of the urgent need for proactive measures in the face of escalating climate challenges.

Lead image courtesy  AFP