Buddhist practice of releasing fish could be harmful to environment: experts

Setting caught animals free is a behavior praised in Buddhist teachings, but releasing harmful exotic species can damage the environment, experts warn. 


On February 5, a ceremony to set fish free took place in front of the Bat Trang Communal House in Gia Lam district of Hanoi. Several tons of fish were poured into the Red River.


Environmentalists opposed the event, warning that the behavior would harm the environment. The fish set free on that day included Colossoma brachypomum, an aggressive fish species belonging to Characidae family sourced from South America. 

The exotic fish species is believed to be a threat to the domestic environment. Being gluttonous, the fish is a threat to amphibians, reptiles and even some small mammals.

Colossoma brachypomum is mentioned in Group 1 in inter-ministerial circular No 27 dated September 26, 2013 which shows the list of harmful invasive species.

The merchandise breeding of the fish is allowed only in areas with good conditions, and it must not be developed in areas with regular floods, where people cannot control breeders. The farming is prohibited in ‘biologically sensitive areas’.


In fact, environmentalists have raised their concern about the presence and development of exotic invasive harmful species. Yellow snails and red-eared turtles once brought serious environmental consequences in the past. 


Most recently, red lobster, or Procambarus clarkii has been found in Dong Thap province. The shrimp is even more harmful that yellow snails as it will destroy rice fields and crops.

Some alien species can easily adapt to the new living environment, competing with native species for food and spreading out new viruses into nature.


Education for Nature Vietnam (ENV) also repeatedly gives warnings about the damaging effects caused by the behavior of releasing harmful exotic invasive species to the environment and breeding wild animals at pagodas as pets. 


On February 15, 2016, ENV was informed that a Manouria impressa turtle was bred in captivity at a pagoda in Thai Binh province. After ENV reported to appropriate agencies, the turtle was seized from the pagoda.

According to ENV, many turtle species cannot exist in the environment of pagoda ponds. Most of them would die after several days or one week after they are put into ponds. 

Many people believe they receive a benefaction if they release wild species into pagoda’s ponds. In order to protect wild animals, the best way is to let them live in the natural environment and be sure they will not be hunted.