|Electrical probes used to catch earthworms confiscated by local police in Tú Sơn District, Hòa Bình Province. - VNA/VNS Photo|
HÒA BÌNH — Hunting earthworms on a large scale may severely damage the ecosystem and decrease agricultural soil quality, said environment experts.
There have been reports on how locals in a number of northern mountainous communities in northern Hoà Bình Province, including Kim Bôi, Tân Lạc, Cao Phong and Đà Bắc use electrical probes to catch earthworms and sell them for profit.
The probes, powered by household electricity at line voltage, go into the ground and shock the worms to the soil's surface. The invertebrates are later gathered, cleaned and dried using large industrial food dryers, which produce an noxious odour. The worm's intestines, often discarded in the process, are dumped directly in streams and rivers polluting the local water sources.
Dried worms fetch around US$30 per kilo. A worm hunter typically catches from 5 to 7 kilos of live worms a night using this method.
Bạch Công Dương, vice chairman of Tú Sơn District in Hòa Bình Province, said there were as many as seven worm factories in the district. Despite numerous warnings issued by local authorities to their owners, they have not been shut down.
Bùi Văn Trọng from the district's police said it's extremely difficult to catch the worm hunters in the act as they only go out at night and often to remote places.
Triệu Văn Hồng, a local representative, said worm hunting using electrical probes has been going on for years. Warnings by local community leaders about the adverse effects it has on the environment have fallen on deaf ears.
"Earthworms are natural tillers. They play in modifying the physical structure of soils by producing new aggregates and pores, which improves soil tilth, aeration, infiltration and drainage. They also increase soil organic matter dynamics, nutrient cycles and promote plant growth," said Nguyễn Hồng Yến from the Hòa Bình Plant Protection Department.
"Hunting earthworms on a large scale may severely hurt soil quality, local agriculture and the ecosystem in the long-term," he said.
Local authorities said as of now there is no ban on worm hunting using electrical probes. Worm hunters often just walk away with small fines or at times just a citation. VNS