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New way of life for lagoon folks

Update: March, 09/2014 - 12:00

For many, many years, people living near the sea have caught fish, which they sell.

In lagoons, such as those in Thua Thien-Hue province, they have caught shrimps using traps.

Now, there are plans for those people to have a chance to also make a living from showing the lagoons to tourists.

It is hoped that people could make as much money from tourism as they can from fishing.

Such plans are important when it comes to making sure that the fish do not all disappear.

Night job: Villagers fishing at the lagoon leave on their boats in early evening and often do not return home until the early hours of the morning.
Night job: Villagers fishing at the lagoon leave on their boats in early evening and often do not return home until the early hours of the morning. - VNS Photo Viet Thanh

By Cong Thanh

Evening is the start of the day for fishermen in Tam Giang and Cau Hai lagoons in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, the country's largest lagoon area.

Tran Duc Hien, 32, travels as far as 8km by boat to place his traps, called lo, and waits until 2am for them to lure shrimp.

"We usually catch 2kg of shrimp every night and sell it for VND400,000 (nearly US$20) at the market in the morning," said his wife Nguyen Thi Chi.

Hien, who was born and grew up in Phu Loc District, returned to his native village after working for a time in HCM City. Situated at the end of the Tam Giang-Cau Hai lagoon system, the small village has a population of about 300. Approximately 40 of them make a living from fishing, including his parents, who are in their seventies.

Hien typically earns VND5 million a month from catching seafood in the lagoons, "quite a good income" for someone in the village. On a good day in the summer, he and his wife can make as much as VND500,000. However, the winter storm season between October and December is "the worst time" and the couple must set aside money to make sure they have enough to survive during those months.

The lagoon has nourished generations. Nguyen Thi Chanh, 70, raised nine children by fishing there.

"Our lives revolve around fishing in the lagoon. Villagers don't have other trades, rice farms or gardens. We depend on fishing because we don't have pensions or savings," Chanh said.

But she also suggested that this traditional occupation was disappearing. Today, only two of her six children fish in the lagoon.

"Young people now have chances to get better jobs with higher income. Only the elderly and uneducated persons still make their lives from the traditional job," Chanh said.

Facing challenges

Hien's VND10 million boat is too small to go very far, but a larger boat would cost three times as much. Like many of his neighbours, he finds it difficult to procure such funds.

Nguyen Thi Mai, 55, said villagers had to borrow "at least VND30 million" from local social welfare banks to build boats. They were usually able to pay back the loan in three years, but bad weather, particularly storms would "bankrupt" them, Mai said.

Moreover, during the monsoon season between October and March, when fishermen cannot sail their boats due to the strong winds, there are few profits to be made.

"Our boat is small and likely to capsize in the wind and big waves. This means that we make nothing on windy days so my family is in debt to vendors in the market," said Van Thi Dong, 69. "Almost all fishermen in the village purchase on the nod on bad weather days. We buy some rice and food from private groceries and then pay for it by selling fish another day."

Eco-tourism

A major change is coming to the quiet village. The central province plans to make Phu Loc District a key location for eco-tours by 2020, and a community-based programme aims to protect the fish and animal life in 307ha of Tam Giang-Cau Hai lagoons.

"We have encouraged local people to do fishing and tourism with an eye towards sustainable development. We want to balance fishing and community-based tourism," said Nguyen Van Manh, vice chairman of the district's People's Committee.

Over 200,000 tourists come to the district a year to explore Cau Hai Lagoon, Bach Ma National Park and the mangrove swamp in the Bu Lu river estuary. Singapore's Banyan Tree has invested US$875 million in resorts and a golf course.

Hien estimates he could earn VND500,000 or even VND1 million from carrying tourists around the lagoon.

"I could make as much money from community-based tourism as fishing," he said. "It's the best way of protecting seafood sources while creating a good income for villagers." — VNS

GLOSSARY

Evening is the start of the day for fishermen in Tam Giang and Cau Hai lagoons in the central province of Thua Thien-Hue, the country's largest lagoon area.

A lagoon is a body of seawater near the sea that is closed off from the sea by a reef or a sandbank.

Tran Duc Hien, 32, travels as far as 8km by boat to place his traps, called lo, and waits until 2am for them to lure shrimp.

A trap is a device in which animals are caught.

To lure a shrimp means to try and get it to go into the trap by offering it something nice, such as food.

The lagoon has nourished generations.

You, your brothers and sisters are one generation; your parents are another; your grandparents are another, and so on.

To nourish means to feed.

"Our lives revolve around fishing in the lagoon."

If people's lives revolve around fishing, it means that fishing is the centre of their lives; the most important thing in their lives.

"Villagers don't have other trades, rice farms or gardens."

People who do trades do jobs such as being a mechanic, an electrician, a builder and other technical occupations.

"We depend on fishing because we don't have pensions or savings," Chanh said.

A pension is money saved up for one's old age.

Like many of his neighbours, he finds it difficult to procure such funds.

To procure such funds means to get such funds.

"Our boat is small and likely to capsize in the wind and big waves."

When a boat capsizes in the water, it turns over.

"This means that we make nothing on windy days so my family is in debt to vendors in the market," said Van Thi Dong, 69.

When you are in debt, you owe money.

Vendors are people who sell things.

"Almost all fishermen in the village purchase on the nod on bad weather days."

To purchase on the nod means to buy something without paying for it immediately but rather promising to pay later.

The central province plans to make Phu Loc District a key location for eco-tours by 2020, and a community-based programme aims to protect the fish and animal life in 307ha of Tam Giang-Cau Hai lagoons.

Eco-tours are tours on which people see things that are of environmental interest.

"We have encouraged local people to do fishing and tourism with an eye towards sustainable development.

Sustainable development is development that does not involve destroying everything nature gives us but rather being less greedy so that new fish, plants and other living creatures can carry on living and breeding .

Over 200,000 tourists come to the district a year to explore Cau Hai Lagoon, Bach Ma National Park and the mangrove swamp in the Bu Lu river estuary.

A mangrove swamp is a swamp that has mangrove trees in it. These trees are able to grow in shallow water.

An estuary is a body of water at the coast with rivers flowing into it on the one side and the sea flowing in and out of it on the other side.

WORKSHEET

State which of the following are true, or false:

1.      The monsoon season is from March to October.

2.      Lagoon fishing in Thua Thien-Hue is a traditional job.

3.      Mangroves grow in the Bu Lu river estuary.

4.      It is easy and cheap for villagers to get boats that can go far out to sea.

5.      Vendors do business in markets.

 

ANSWERS:

© Duncan Guy/Learn the News/ Viet Nam News 2014






















1. False; 2. True; 3. True; 4. False; 5. True.

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