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Keeping fishing going

Update: May, 24/2020 - 08:20

 

OFFERINGS: A fish festival held on the beach in Đà Nẵng. The festival, which has been recognised as a National Intangible Heritage, is a traditional event held by fishing villages in the central city. VNS Photo Lê Lâm

 by Bùi Hoài Nam

 

Stretching 90km along the coast over the Hải Vân Pass to Hội An, fishing villages and crowded fishery communities have been around for centuries. However, temples dedicated to whales – fishermen's guardian angels – are now the last vestiges of ancient fishing villages that have been replaced by high rise buildings and mass tourism.

Đinh Dũng, 50, usually wakes up at 4am to set off on a fishing trip to the Sơn Trà Peninsular. He is among around 2,000 fishermen from Thọ Quang Village who make a living at sea.

Dozens of coracles and small fishing boats leave Sơn Trà to net fish, squid, lobster and crab in the reefs surrounding Sơn Trà Mountain, obviously stopping for a morning coffee break first.

“I'm used to waking up early because I started fishing with my father when I was five years old. Fishing is my family's trade that we inherited from my grandfather on An Bàng Beach near Hội An. My father later moved to a new life in Sơn Trà,” Dũng said.

 “I followed my father on large fishing vessels looking for a bumper catch in the waters off the Chàm Islands and back to Sơn Trà in the evening. We still head out to sea, but in smaller bamboo boats for quick trips with higher income by catching squid and lobster,” he explained.

Dũng said he was sent to school before earning his captain's certificate, but early morning fishing is still his traditional routine due to his love for the sea.

He said fishing and the smell of the ocean were simply part of life.

The coral reefs off Sơn Trà are home to a wealth of sea creatures and fish, so fishermen set traps with bait from the late evening for the next morning.

 “It’s an easy catch. I spend two hours each morning pulling in my catch, and then I reset the nets. I only stop during the off-season and when cruise tours arrive,” he said.

Different hamlets used to specialise in catching fish, squid, shrimp and anchovy for fish sauce, as well as oysters, he explained.

That's why each fishing village makes various products such as shrimp paste, fish sauce, dried fish and fresh produce for restaurants.

Crafts

Lý Hữu Tiến, 49, makes coracles and bamboo products used for fishing at sea.

Tiến, who is the last craftsman left in the former fishing village, said many villagers help out by weaving nets, repairing boats, and trading and processing fish.

 “I learnt how to make coracles, fish baskets and paddles,” he said.

“I'm busy all the time because the fishermen are too. I often repair coracles during the off-season when fishermen leave their boats on the beach,” he explained.

He said the trade earned him a living, but it was rare for young people to get into it as tourism and urbanisation were booming on the Sơn Trà Peninsula.

The fishing community had been resettled far from the beach to make way for hotels and resort development over the years, Tiến said.

He said only middle-aged men were still living by fishing because they had no other choice. The younger generation who were better educated could earn more from tourism and services.

Tiến said he was taught the bamboo craft by Phan Liêm, 81, who lives in Thọ An Hamlet.

He said he hoped community-based tourism would revive the fishing trade and crafts on the beaches of Sơn Trà.

The last fishing communities in the ancient villages of Mân Thái and Nam Ô still make fish sauce, despite the impacts of the industrial sauce trade.

Trần Ngọc Vinh, 71, said 110 households in Nam Ô Village had developed into a famous brand for Đà Nẵng.

Intangible heritage

Fishing villages often host festivals dedicated to whales before the new season.

It’s the biggest festival of the year to pay homage to the Sea God.

Nguyễn Đình Chơi, 73, said the festival dated back over 200 years.

Superstitiously, fishermen believe that whales will protect them from disasters, so whale temples can be found in many villages

The festivals were recognised as a National Intangible Heritage in 2017.

Director of the city’s Culture and Sports Department Huỳnh Văn Hùng said a plan to preserve ancient fishing villages and crafts had been mapped out for 2025-30. The idea is to preserve traditional cultural performance, temples and relics for tourists to enjoy.

Despite the high-rise hotels on the beach, the last fishermen can still find narrow channels to paddle their boats out for the early-morning catch.

“I feel lonely living far from the sea. For me, fishing is still a good trade, but it needs a face-lift to embrace community-based tourism – a sustainable trend for both trade preservation and fishing,” Dũng said.

“We can save the fishing industry by offering tours as well as home-stay services for tourists. This could help us save our fishing communities." VNS

GLOSSARY

Stretching 90km along the coast over the Hải Vân Pass to Hội An, fishing villages and crowded fishery communities have been around for centuries.

Centuries are periods of a hundred years.

However, temples dedicated to whales – fishermen's guardian angels – are now the last vestiges of ancient fishing villages that have been replaced by high rise buildings and mass tourism.

If a temple is dedicated to whales, it is committed to whales.

The last vestige means the last sign, or trace.

Ancient means “very old”.

If fishing villages have been replaced by high-rise buildings, it means that high-rise buildings have taken the places of the villages.

Mass tourism happens when huge numbers of people visit a place, on holiday, at the same time.

Dozens of coracles and small fishing boats leave Sơn Trà to net fish, squid, lobster and crab in the reefs surrounding Sơn Trà Mountain, obviously stopping for a morning coffee break first.

A coracle is a small, round boat.

Reefs are underwater walls of rock, or coral, that sometimes stick up above the surface of the water.

“Fishing is my family's trade that we inherited from my grandfather on An Bàng Beach near Hội An.”

To inherit something means to have it passed on to you when its owner dies.

“I followed my father on large fishing vessels looking for a bumper catch in the waters off the Chàm Islands and back to Sơn Trà in the evening.”

A bumper catch is a very good catch.

“We still head out to sea, but in smaller bamboo boats for quick trips with higher income by catching squid and lobster,” he explained.

Income is money that comes into a home or business.

Dũng said he was sent to school before earning his captain's certificate, but early morning fishing is still his traditional routine due to his love for the sea.

A routine is a schedule of things people do at the same time, every day.

The coral reefs off Sơn Trà are home to a wealth of sea creatures and fish, so fishermen set traps with bait from the late evening for the next morning.

Bait is food that is attached to hooks to catch fish.

Different hamlets used to specialise in catching fish, squid, shrimp and anchovy for fish sauce, as well as oysters, he explained.

Hamlets are very small villages.

To specialise in something means to do a very specific job that not everyone does and to know how to do it well.

Tiến, who is the last craftsman left in the former fishing village, said many villagers help out by weaving nets, repairing boats, and trading and processing fish.

A craftsman is a person who makes things with his or her hands.

To weave a net means to make one by tying string of a material in a special way.

“I'm busy all the time because the fishermen are too. I often repair coracles during the off-season when fishermen leave their boats on the beach,” he explained.

The off-season, for fishing, would be the time of year when fishermen do not catch fish.

He said the trade earned him a living, but it was rare for young people to get into it as tourism and urbanisation were booming on the Sơn Trà Peninsula.

Urbanisation is the process that involves people leaving rural areas to go and live in towns and cities.

When things are booming they are going well.

He said only middle-aged men were still living by fishing because they had no other choice.

Middle-aged people are people in the middle of their lives, in their forties or fifties.

It’s the biggest festival of the year to pay homage to the Sea God.

To pay homage means to pay respect.

Superstitiously, fishermen believe that whales will protect them from disasters, so whale temples can be found in many villages

Superstitiously means “in such a way that it involves in a belief in things like magic and things that have not been proved by science”.

Director of the city’s Culture and Sports Department Huỳnh Văn Hùng said a plan to preserve ancient fishing villages and crafts had been mapped out for 2025-30.

To preserve something means to keep it in the same condition as it once was.

The idea is to preserve traditional cultural performance, temples and relics for tourists to enjoy.

Relics are things left behind from the past.

“For me, fishing is still a good trade, but it needs a face-lift to embrace community-based tourism – a sustainable trend for both trade preservation and fishing,” Dũng said.

A face-lift is an improvement to something, or someone’s looks.

To embrace means to “take up”.

Something that is sustainable is able to keep going without needing to be helped and without killing its own resources.

A trend is a pattern.

WORKSHEET

State whether the following sentences are true, or false:

  1. Đinh Dũng went to school only after earning his captain’s certificate.
  2. Lý Hữu Tiến makes coracles, which is an old tradition.
  3. Younger people on the Sơn Trà Peninsula are involved in fishing while middle-aged people are involved in tourism.
  4. Fishermen on the Sơn Trà Peninsula honour whales.
  5. Huỳnh Văn Hùng’s job is Director of Culture and Sports Department in Đà Nẵng.

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