Viet Nam News
BÌNH ĐỊNH — Unlike most Vietnamese, many fishermen will be spending the upcoming Tết (Lunar New Year) holiday at sea.
Nearing the end of the Year of the Monkey, while most people are busy shopping for groceries or tidying their houses in preparation for Tết, several fishermen are instead gearing up for more seafaring, far away from home.
These days, Quy Nhơn fish port in the south central province of Bình Định is bustling with scores of fishing vessels – some have just returned from a 20-day action-packed trip, with cabins laden with shrimp and fish, while many others are getting ready to set sail, hoping for a successful expedition.
Forty-year-old captain Nguyễn Ngọc Hưng, hailing from Hoài Nhơn District, has spent half his life braving the perils of the oceans. He said he has not been at home with his family to celebrate Tết for 19 years now.
No sooner had Hưng’s crew returned from their fishing trip than they already started preparing for another seafaring, this time they will bring with them the traditional tét cakes, pickled onions and beer, to together welcome the new year on the rolling waves.
“We’d rest for half an hour then listen to the president sending Tết best wishes over the radio. Even for the first three days of the new year, we work as usual. After all, that’s how life is as a fisherman, we have to come to terms with it,” Hưng told VOV (Voice of Việt Nam).
Trần Bảo, also from Hoài Nhơn District, however, is less unfortunate. A month ago, his return journey from the Trường Sa (Spratly) Archipelago region was met with particularly stormy waves, and his VNĐ4 billion craft – a significant sum – was destroyed at sea.
Bảo barely managed to make it back alive but was not discouraged by any means. With the money he borrowed from banks, family, relatives and friends, plus the damage insurance, he will build a new modern boat of 800 horsepower to continue traversing the sea.
“This year is generally quite good; I earned a considerable income. The boat’s sinking is just bad luck. The government recommends offshore fishing, so I have ordered a higher capacity boat for better catches. I plan to gather some 15 crew members, including a captain and a chief engineer. The sea is still plentiful. It will provide for us if we work hard,” Bảo said.
In the central region, Bình Định Province boasts the largest fleet – comprising of 8,000 fishing vessels. The province possesses a large wooden boat dockyard in the region and is also a "leader" in building steel-clad boats, in line with the government’s Decree 67/2014, which aims at promoting offshore fishing via financial support for building high capacity boats.
The province’s authorities have identified marine economy as the spearhead sector and this has resulted in a breakthrough project on "Tuna fishing with Japanese technology". With technology transferred from Japanese partners, the project has been implemented for two years and achieved initial positive results.
Last year, natural disasters greatly impacted fishermen’s lives and their livelihood. Dozens of vessels were submerged. Some 22 high-capacity boats sustained heavy damage, with some even sinking, as a result of the five consecutive floods.
The good news was local authorities did try their best to provide fishermen with necessary support to enable them to continue offshore fishing.
Hồ Quốc Dũng, Chairman of the provincial People’s Committee, said urgent aid, both in terms of human resources and financial support, was deployed to get the boats repaired.
“Regarding the vessels that sank, we also have support policies for fishermen to build new ones and continue fishing. We have requested the Government and the State Bank of Việt Nam to extend the loan repayment period for fishermen whose vessels have sunk,” Dũng said.
For fishermen of the central region in general and of the Bình Định Province in particular, celebrating Tết in the waters off Trường Sa (Spratly) and Hoàng Sa (Paracel) islands is a familiar "tradition".
Aside from the economic aspect, every fisherman also shoulders the honourable responsibility of contributing to the protection of the country’s sovereignty. — VNS