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VietNamNews

Ban on small boats a big worry for fishermen

Update: December, 10/2016 - 09:06
The central coast city’s plan to get rid of 1,100 small vessels (under 20CV) engaged in small-scale and near-shore fishing has sparked anxiety among fishermen whose sole means of livelihood is threatened. – Photo tuoitre.vn

ĐÀ NẴNG – The central coast city’s plan to get rid of 1,100 small vessels (under 20CV) engaged in small-scale and near-shore fishing has sparked anxiety among fishermen whose sole means of livelihood is threatened.

Đà Nẵng authorities say the move aims at protecting sea resources, promoting offshore fishing, and sea tourism, but the fishermen are not convinced.

They say the plan does not offer sufficient compensation for owners of demolished boats, or access to capital for investing in offshore fishing, no support for difficult job transitions and the chances of finding gainful employment are slim.

Huỳnh Bốn, a resident of Thuận Phước Ward, said his five-member family’s livelihood relies entirely on using a 20CV boat to dive for chíp chíp (a type of clam).

“For many years, clam diving has provided for our family. It’s a backbreaking job, but every day I can earn between VNĐ300,000-500,000 (US$13-22), enough to live on,” Bốn told the Tuổi Trẻ (Youth) newspaper.

 “If the city terminates small boats, I don’t know what I would do. We adults are too old now. Learning other trades is impossible for us.”

From the same ward, 46-year-old Trần Minh Khẩn shares similar worries. He doesn’t think he has the strength or experience to pursue a new trade.

“The authorities have said they will pay a couple of millions to buy back our boats, but that will only be enough to cover living expenses for a few months. Then what are we going to do for a living?” 

Nguyễn Văn Ngộ, 57, of Thọ Quang Ward, will have no part of the city’s proposal.

Ngộ is illiterate and has poor eyesight, but he still earns over half a million a day from fishing, enough to provide for a seven-member family, and he’s determined to “stick with my cheap basket boat for the rest of my life.”

But most of the affected fishermen are despondent.

Phạm Văn Tuyên, 45, resident of Mân Thái Ward, said if the plan is carried out, he will have no choice but to relocate elsewhere with his small vessel.

Free training, few takers

Trần Văn Thành, an official with the Sơn Trà District Economy Committee, said that this year, so far, they have received 11 applications to have the boats taken, mostly from old fishermen and households without successors to continue in their trade. A few others want to use the payment to buy fishing nets and co-operate with other fishing vessels, he said.

Thành conceded that the compensation offered was not sufficient and the free vocational training classes are for jobs that fishermen don’t find suitable.

Đặng Công Thắng, Chairman of the Đà Nẵng Farmers’ Association, said he has received many complaints from fishermen.

“They want appropriate policies that will offer employment opportunities that match their qualifications, health, and age.”

The city’s labour department has been tasked with providing free vocational training courses for fishermen.

Kiều Thị Thanh Trang, head of the department’s vocation training division, said free training was being offered for 42 different jobs now, but the fishermen could propose others that better suit their needs. Her office will submit these suggestions to the city’s People’s Committee for review and appropriate follow-up, she said.

Valid reasons?

The Đà Nẵng administration feels it has valid reasons for the plan to do away with small boats.

According to Việt Nam Fisheries Society (VINAFIS), near-shore waters are where parent fish come to spawn, and the young fish will also live there until adulthood.

Therefore, the small boats that catch these fish are exacting an expensive environmental toll.

Curbing fishing in shallow waters is the right move to prevent exhaustion of fishereies resources, the society argues.

In addition, most of the 1100 small boats are equipped with outdated machinery and communication systems, and some are just crude basket boats that are unsafe.

The city has announced that registered small boats will be bought back for between VNĐ10 million ($440) and VNĐ30 million ($1,320), depending on the size, build, and capacity; while unregistered small boat owners will be paid significantly lower amounts of between VNĐ5 million ($220) and 10 million ($440).

The authorities are also pledging financial support of VNĐ10 million ($440) per worker to transition to other jobs, but this support will not be available to workers of unregistered boats.

The protests against the move, though loud, are mostly from unregistered boat owners, said Nguyễn Đỗ Tám, Deputy Director of the Đà Nẵng Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

He said authorities had devised the support packages following numerous meetings with fishermen and relevant agencies that were organised after the plan was first conceived in 2014.

Huỳnh Đức Thơ, Chairman of the Đà Nẵng City People’s Committee, has directed the city districts to properly use the allocated budget of VNĐ25 billion ($1.1 million) in the next five years.

“The plan holds significant meaning for the city’s target of sustainable development of seafood exploitation and economic restructuring. Its implementation will follow a carefully laid roadmap with people’s opinions taken into consideration,” he said.

However, VINAFIS also said an outright ban without proper consideration for pressing livelihood issues would be unwise.

It said the best way would be to identify and inform the fishermen of which shallow water areas are open to fishing, which areas are off-limits, and at which time of the year, for example, during breeding seasons.

The association has suggested a scheme similar to forest tenure, which will assign parts of the near-shore areas to local people, both to manage and to exploit. 

Because their livelihoods depend on the sustainability of the near-shore ecosystem, the fishermen would be more conscious and welcoming of protection efforts; and the role of the government would be to ensure proper oversight and provide fishermen with guidance on best practices. – VNS

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