Fishermen struggle to set sail amid multiple difficulties with petrol, manpower and fishing grounds

April 08, 2023 - 09:14

After the pandemic and with the rising fuel price, a fishing trip cost much more than in the past. 

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HCM CITY — Fishermen across the country are seeking support in financial mechanisms, labour and advanced techniques to be able to continue their profession. 

After the pandemic and with the rising price of fuel, a fishing trip cost much more than in the past. Increasingly limited fishing ground and resources also left many vessels in laid-up. 

Nguyễn Tôn Niên, a fisherman in Bà Rịa-Vũng Tàu Province told Pháp Luật (Law) online newspaper that many fishermen are now hundreds of millions of đồng in debt after returning home from a sail. 

The amount of money needed for reinvestment also exceeds their financial capacity, he said.

“We really hope that the government have support policies so that fishermen can continue to set sail," Niên said. 

“As for the policy limiting trawlers to recover the aquatic resources, it is for the long-term benefits and we gladly comply. But also we look forward to practical support from the state.

“For example, buying and revaluing fishermen’s vessels based on the year of manufacture. This will provide them with a capital source to switch to other forms of aquaculture.” 

He added that fishing is a job usually passed down through generations, therefore not many fishermen have a degree in higher education. 

Many positions also favour applicants aged 40 or younger, he said. People in their 50s, like him, have little chance and hoped to get the support to continue his family’s profession. 

In the central Quảng Nam Province, fisherman Lê Văn Lơ also struggled with his recent catch. 

He said: “Usually after deducting all the expenses, the remaining revenue will be split between fishermen and vessel owners according to the agreed ratio.

“But with the recent hikes in fuel prices and limited aquatic resources, fishermen are working for vessel owners by month or by fishing trip.”

Lơ said that fishermen go out to the sea on average five to six months per year, with each sail lasting about a month. 

In previous years when there are still abundant fish, their income is much better when the revenue is split according to the catch.

The labour cost for each trip is approximately VNĐ90 million (US$3,800), on top of VNĐ200 million ($8,500) for fuel. 

With the price of flying fish at VNĐ20,000 ($0.85) per kilogramme, each catch must reach 15 tonnes to break even.

Huỳnh Minh Cảnh, a ship owner in the same district said that it is difficult to find fishermen nowadays due to the unstable income. 

“The fishing ground is exhausted, the catches are either little or have low prices when the amount is abundant," he said. 

“We fishermen hope for a big consumption market instead of being dependent on small wet markets like right now. 

“If the market is unstable, we’re in difficulty even if the catches are decent.”

Trần Văn Phừng, a fisherman in the central Thừa Thiên-Huế District said that each trip not only depends on fuel prices and fishing grounds but also the number of labourers hired. 

“Finding workers is difficult these days as the young generation is not as keen on this profession,” said Phừng. 

Trần Văn Lĩnh, chairman of Đà Nẵng City Association for Fishing said that many ship owners have resorted to seeking workers from other localities, to whom they have to advance salaries to be able to set sail. 

However, the lack of knowledge and experience results in risks and instability in the sector’s labour force. 

Lĩnh added that there has been no organisation that comprehensively transfers fishing technology or provides training for fishermen. 

The only university that taught this profession was the aquaculture institute of Nha Trang University, but they had closed down the fishing department a decade ago. 

Lĩnh said: “There is no school in this country that teaches the industrial techniques of fishing, and there is no fishery department in secondary schools.

“If we consider fisheries an industry then human resources are a crucial factor, but formal training for this has not received any attention.” — VNS