Typhoon Damrey wrecks lobster industry

November 11, 2017 - 09:00

A total of  89 people were killed, 1,140 fishing vessels either sunk or damaged and 24,000 aquaculture cages for lobsters, groupers and cobia were lost during Typhoon Damrey.

Dumped: Fishermen in the coastal province of Khánh Hoà straighten and mend their fishing nets dumped by the typhoon. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyên Lý
Viet Nam News

PHÚ YÊN — A total of  89 people were killed, 1,140 fishing vessels either sunk or damaged and 24,000 aquaculture cages for lobsters, groupers and cobia were lost during Typhoon Damrey.

More than 1,000ha of intensive shrimp growing fields and 570ha of molluscs were also damaged. Total losses suffered by the Khánh Hoà Province’s aquaculture sector is estimated at VNĐ 3.7 trillion (US$162.9 million) – the highest loss sustained by any sector.

This accounted for 50 per cent of the province’s total storm losses.

Typhoon Damrey also flooded thousands of hectares of land and destroyed the livelihoods of  lobster farmers in the south-central region.

As the wind and rain subsided, lobster farmers from Xuân Thịnh Commune in Sông Cầu township in Phú Yên Province, hailed as the “lobster kingdom” of the central region, hurried towards the sea to check on the cages for the crustaceans– if there were any left.

The farmers were shocked, saying they had never experienced such heavy losses, up to billions of đồng, and they are not sure when they could resume production.

One day after the storm, Vịnh Hoà Village looked like a “battlefield” with lobster cages battered by sea waves piled up on the beach. The men scoured carefully through each pile, hoping to find undamaged cages.

Nearly all households in the village raise lobsters, thousands of them.

Nguyễn Thái Hoàng and Bùi Văn Bất each lost VNĐ 2 billion (US$88,060). “There has never been such a strong typhoon through here, and it lasted too long. I own 20 cages, but after the storm, I found only one, and it was already broken and there were no lobsters inside,” Hoàng said.

Sharing the sentiment, Bất said that the typhoon had reduced his family from prosperity to “nearly empty-handed”.

Salvage: Even with strong waves, lobster farmers in Sông Cầu township in Phú Yên Province try to save some fo their lobster pots. — Photo vov.vn

Vịnh Hoà area has a high concentration of lobster farms. Most of the cages are pinned to the bottom of the sea. Before the storm arrived, residents spent days strapping the cages together, but their efforts came to nothing against violent waves as high as six metres.

Võ Thị Ngần, a resident of Vịnh Hoà Village, said her family lost 100,000 lobsters to the storm.

“The forecast said the typhoon’s path would not pass directly through here, so we didn’t prepare carefully enough. Now we have lost everything,” Ngần told the Voice of Việt Nam.

Local authorities and border guards have arrived to inspect losses and to help lobster farmers.

Lieutenant Colonel Nguyễn Anh Long, chief of Xuân Thịnh station, said guards had begun attempts to catch cages floating at sea, and identify the owners.

“The loss is serious, but there are no proper statistics yet. Local residents and authorities are trying to lessen the losses and overcome the storm’s consequences,” he said

Lying some 100km to the south of Vịnh Hoà Village is another “lobster kingdom,” the Vạn Giã Township of Vạn Ninh District in neighbouring Khánh Hoà Province, which suffered even more disastrous impacts.

The township boasted about 281 lobster and marine fish farms, but nearly all of them suffered losses from the typhoon.

Lê Hồng Phương, Party Secretary of  Vạn Giã, said: “The losses to people here might reach millions of dollars."

Beached: A fisherman in Khánh Hoà repairs his fishing boat following damage caused by typhoon Damrey. — VNA/VNS Photo Nguyên Lý

Nguyễn Thị Lợi, a 40-year-old resident, said the money she spent to buy 5,000 lobsters she just lost together with money to buy food for the lobsters reached nearly VNĐ10 billion ($440,300) - all of it from bank loans.

Nearly all the households in the area share Lợi’s story.

Nguyễn Ngọc Ý, head of the economic office of the Vạn Ninh District, said there were 12,400 fishing and lobster cages in the area, but the storm “ wiped nearly all of them out”.

Võ Lục Phẩm, vice-chairman of Vạn Ninh District People’s Committee, said that the district has asked banks for a loan extension.

“The only thing my husband and I have left is our lives,” Lợi said, looking vacantly towards the raging sea and the beach littered with trash and covered by the stench of dead fish and lobsters.

Aquaculture production and exploitation have always been a strength of Khánh Hoà Province. In recent years, with support from the Government for offshore fishing, fishermen have invested billions of đồng in new fishing vessels.

However, the typhoon has destroyed the hard-earned investments of many: fishing nets and tools were broken, vessels were washed ashore and heavily battered.

Trần Thị Chuyền, 53 year old fisherman from Ninh Ích Commune in Ninh Hoà Township, said she was worried about the future since her entire livelihood was dependent on seafaring. Her house was also wrecked by the typhoon.

Phạm Ngọc Khánh, vice-chairman of Ninh Ích Commune, said it would take a long time for fishermen and aquaculture producers to get back on their feet, and the locality would really appreciate support from the State. — VNS