Viet Nam News
AN GIANG — When the food first hits the water, a school of tra fish appears, eager to eat.
The fish ‘belong’ to Phạm Văn Cường, 64, commonly known as Năm Cường, in Vĩnh Ngươn District, Châu Đốc City in the Mekong Delta province of An Giang.
For four years, Cường has taken care of the natural fish school on the Vĩnh Ngươn River, an undertaking that began with a twist of fate.
Under his floating house swim thousands of fish, making the area look like any one of the Mekong Delta’s thousands of fish cages.
In 2014, Cường retired from his logging business as his sons and daughters had all settled down. He set up a holiday house by Vĩnh Ngươn River, a branch of the Hậu River and made it a place to gather with friends and enjoy nature.
At first, Cường submerged dried tree branches in the river to lure fish for his friends to watch.
As he did not catch them, day after day, more and more fish gathered near Cường’s house, waiting to be fed.
Trần Văn Phi, Cường’s neighbor, told Thanh niên (Young people) newspaper that local residents doubted Cường’s fish farming techniques. No way could anyone gather such a huge group of fish, they thought.
Cường proved them wrong, but even he was perplexed.
“I don’t know why only tra fish stay. Other species come for food then leave,” he said.
As the school of fish grew bigger, Cường set up a strategy to protect them. He covered a water surface area of more than 400sq.m and constructed a floating house to observe the fish.
A thick carpet of water hyacinth is grown along with bunches of submerged dried tree branches, becoming home of the fish.
A bamboo stick fence is used to stop water hyacinths from floating away and strangers from fishing.
Every day, he spends about VNĐ300,000 to 500,000 (US$13 – 21.5) on fish food.
According to Cường, the school has now reached up to six tonnes. The biggest fish weighs nearly 10kg while the smallest is about 0.5kg.
Close to Cường, the fishes even allow him to rub their heads, bringing him incomparable pleasure.
“Natural fish gather here to find food while a lot of people attempt to catch them. Therefore, I’m taking efforts to protect them from fishing,” he said.
Cường’s one-of-a-kind fish has triggered public curiosity. Up to now, more than 1,000 tourists, on their way to visit Bà Chúa Xứ Temple or Bảy Núi Area, have stopped by his house to watch the fish.
Cường’s hospitality makes the experience unforgettable for them.
“It is such a meaningful activity,” said Phan Thanh Bùi in Vĩnh Ngươn District, “fish watching is soothing and relaxing. It also helps raise awareness of people about protecting the environment and natural fish reserves.”
Caring for the fish has become Cường’s life’s work.
“I will protect them till the last day of my life and bequeath my children this legacy,” he said.
“It’s not only about leisure; it’s how we protect Mekong River’s fish,” Cường added. — VNS