LAO CAI — For three years, illegal fishermen have been using electric shocks to stun and catch fish in the northern province of Lao Cai.
The technique has wiped out several species of fish in long stretches of the Hong (Red) River, said Nguyen Huu Truong, deputy chief inspector of the provincial Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The fishermen generally use 350-volt transformers for their work.
Le Van Cam, one of the illegal fishers, said a set of transformer cost about VND3 million (US$145.6), but could stun or kill up to seven metres away.
He said weekly profits from "electric" fishing often amounted to about VND10 million ($485), adding that the fish were sold to provincial restaurants.
Meanwhile, Truong said that preventing locals from fishing by electric pulse was difficult because they often fished at night and used mobile phones to warn each other about the movements of police or inspectors.
Moreover, he said few police and inspectors had been appointed to do the job - and co-ordination between the department and local authorities was not good.
"We strive our best, but so far this year we only caught 31 people. I believe the number of violations was many more," he said.
Truong added that local fishermen's education levels were low and they did not understand the environmental threat of their actions.
For instance, uncompleted statistics reveal that about 200 people work as illegal fishermen in Bao Yen District, but after one year of warnings, only 17 have agreed to stop the practice.
Now, the department will ask provincial authorities to assign more officials to check on rivers and streams at night. — VNS