Life Life

23/05/2018 - 09:17

"Descendants" of the sea

At one time, the fishing village of Dong Hai (Loc Tri commune, Phu Loc district, 45km north of Hue city) was "dirt-poor."

Many young fishermen in Dong Hai village are succeeding their ancestors, building large ships to go to sea

However, in the last ten years, many people have been referring to it as the "billionaire village." The people here are not just rich in terms of having big ships and big houses, but they are also “rich” in their  young, courageous generation.

The living "milestones"

The fact that young people nowadays are not passionate with fishery is nothing strange. The labor working in the sea nowadays seems to be… aging. Fisherman Tran Vem (Dong Hai Village) waved his hands and shook his head as I mentioned this in the story. He defined the sea occupation with ups and downs, just as the lives of the people who depend on it.

In the old days when there was no big boat, many fishermen in the fishing village nestled on the edge of this lagoon must wander far and near, working as crew members to catch fish. From the coastal areas of Central Vietnam such as Binh Dinh and Binh Thuan, to faraway areas like Southern Vietnam such as Vung Tau, Ca Mau, there was no place which did not bear the footprints of Dong Hai fishermen.

"In the past, it was very difficult. Despite the fact that it was our fathers’ business, we had no money to build large ships to go to sea. But because of our love for this career, we travelled all the way to the south of the country. When we returned to our homeland, we could only go to sea on small boats, with the engines of a few dozen horsepower. Nowadays, everyone knows of the Dong Hai offshore fleet. The ships have modern equipment, so the output of fishing is high. Fishing now is much better than in the old times, so there’s no reason for young people to abandon the sea. I don’t know about elsewhere, but here in our village, the generations of my children and grandchildren will still continue this business,” Mr. Vem said.

Mr. Tran Quang, one of the many fishermen in Dong Hai village who bravely built large ships

Although the large fleet has up to dozens of ships, the waters of Dong Hai are always empty. The high-rise houses along the winding concrete road now only have women and children. And in this coastal area, people like Mr. Vem are not rare. They are the living "milestones" who have stepped back behind the scenes, giving way to the "big stage" for the next generation.

I met old fisherman Tran Vinh (Dong Hai village) on a sunny afternoon. He stood on the side of a ship undergoing maintenance service, with his eyes toward the sea. With nearly 40 years being friends with the waves, he understands what fishery brings to fishermen.

"I left my boat to my son. They have been out at sea for the past few weeks. When they come back, they will go to the dock in Da Nang, not here. After many years going out to sea with my children, I am now too old. So, I leave everything for them,” Mr. Vinh shared.

 Now, with Mr. Vinh, fishing largely lives in his memory, with different colors, with both joy and sadness. According to Mr. Vinh, more than two decades ago, the boats that rode the waves were all gray. The boats were not as equipped as today. So, all of their work relied solely on their strength and experience. 

"We never had fish detectors, intercom systems or lighting systems at that time. Fishing at night, we only saw the black color of the water. The young generation of Dong Hai followed their fathers out to sea when they were small so they understand the extreme difficulties back then. Now the difficult time has passed. Our children are following their ancestors. They understand what fishery brings," Mr. Vinh said.

 Keeping the sea with large ships

Coming to Dong Hai, it is not easy to meet young fishermen. In this season, they are out at sea most of the time. They only return home at the new moon and rest for a week.  At a time when offshore fishing vessels are exploiting their fishing grounds hundreds of nautical miles from the mainland, Mr. Tran Quang is working hard on a ship with an estimated capacity of over 1,000 horsepower, still fresh with woody aromas.  

"I can only talk with you for about 30 minutes. I invested over 10 billion VND on this large boat so I need to be careful and help the workers so we can soon send her out to sea,” Mr. Quang told me before his interview.

Since childhood, Mr. Quang has followed his father all over the place to fish. Though he is less than 40 years old, he has had nearly 25 year experience with the waters. Talking about the sea, he is quite knowledgeable: "In recent years, not only in Thua Thien Hue but in all provinces, fishermen are investing in modern equipment to catch fish. Machines are gradually replacing the experience of our fathers in the old times. For example, to determine where the fish is, we now have positioning detectors to give us correct coordinates..." After many years of fishing with a ship of 450 horsepower, along with borrowing from relatives, he has raised enough money to build his own big ship.

"For fishermen, our ship is our life. Anyone who has a career in fishing wants to own his own ship. Nowadays, if you want to keep your business, you need to build a large ship. In Dong Hai, there are many other young people who are also boldly building large ships to succeed their fathers, such as Mr. Van Toan, Tran Rin," Mr. Minh commented.

At present, the number of offshore vessels in Dong Hai village has reached dozens of units with large capacity. Mr. Cai Trong Nhu, Chairman of Loc Tri Commune People's Committee said: "The previous generations of seafarers are now elderly. For most of the local fishing boats, the young generation are the captains, continuing their fathers’ fishing career. It is estimated that nearly 80% of the captains are between 30 and 45 years old. This shows that young people are still passionate about the sea. They are the "descendants of fishery."

Story and photos: Quynh Vien

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