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22/11/2019 - 08:01

The waves are still rushing at the feet

Although hardship is now part of the memories, it reminds of the time when Mother Sea provided many people with everlasting resources for life. Now the boats are big enough to go far offshore, creating a matrix in the sea with different types and shapes. The trips in and out of the sea are deeply rooted in the weather-beaten fishermen.

A return from an offshore trip of fishermen in the seaboard in Phong Hai Commune, Phong Dien District.

Fishing is generally accepted to involve much effort and energy that is never recorded in books. After each fishing trip, experience is gained and accumulated into the job skills and tips. It is not the big boats, but the small bamboo crafts swaying on the waves that come to my mind when I think about the sea.

Standing on the sand dunes of the seaboard areas to look at the small bamboo crafts, you will find that they are like the fragile life at the sea front.

Standing near me on the beach, Nguyen Cong An (from Tan An village, Quang Ngan Commune) sighed at times when he, as an experienced fisherman, realized the change of the sea color. The water swirled and changed the current in a strange way.

He said it was an unusual change of the sea over the past few decades. “It is this change in the water current that has caused a decline in the amount of seafood,” explained An from his own experience. +

“Let me take an easy example. Herrings often swim to shore in a large school on the surface depending on the current. Based on experience, fishermen used to be able to anticipate and choose the catching methods, either ‘underwater catching’ or ‘floating catching’, but it is now very hard for them to do so because the current has already changed,” said An. I realize what An said about the changes of the sea is actually the influences of the climate change.

After an offshore trip late lunar September, the boats in Phu Vang started a winter break

Fishermen have to make a change in order to continue fishing. I realized the importance of experience in fishing once I saw dozens of boats strewing on Tu Hien estuary to hamper the northeastern wind.

Tu Hien estuary has been accreted, making the creek dry. When the windy season comes, the waves sweep in, making the water deeper than usual, and the coastal fish get trapped to the fishing gear, accordingly. Fishermen take advantage of this to besiege sea creatures with simple fishing nets. The boats take turns to leave the dock.

It is a rule that big boats conquer the furious waves offshore while the small boats float around. This is also the rule for life at the sea front. It is now a routine for fishermen at the estuaries to talk about the fishing gear that costs dozens of, or even hundreds of, million Vietnamese Dong, including horizontal detector, vertical detector, GPS devices, or even modern communication system.

Fishermen in Quang Cong (Quang Dien) check their fishing gear before heading offshore

It is a good sign as fishermen have adapted to the current trends. Still, they have undergone unexpected fishing seasons.

During the winter break, the offshore fishing boats will be moored onshore until late lunar February of the next year. This is a common practice all over the province. It is this fishing practice that shortens their fishing season and have a long break. Clearly, no matter how big and well-equipped their boats are, the fishermen with their fishing customs decide on the success of their fishing trips.

According to Tran Van Dzung (from Thuan An Town), most fishermen in Thua Thien Hue use ‘floating catching’ method, so they have to follow the natural rules of fishing season learned from the ancestral experience.

“There has not been any storm so far, and the weather will, in fact, be favorable for the offshore trips. Yet the winter break started late September and it lasts five months. It is believed that the ill-timed fishing trips often have low productivity,” said Dzung.

Sighs are heard here and there in Thuan An Town (Phu Vang District) after the fishing trips. It is not because of a failure, but because the lower productivity than expected has made fishermen deeply concerned.

The large-capacity fishing boats built and launched early in this year did not bring about expected results. The income was only enough to pay the bank loan interest. During the tidal season, fishermen find ways to upgrade the fishing boats awaiting a new fishing season, returning a regular circle of life.

Fishermen in Vinh Hien (Phu Loc) maintain their fishing gear during the winter break

As the fishing boats rested onshore, I went to the seafood markets along the coast. The markets here bear the characteristics of a coastal community, where there are all kinds of fresh raw fish.

At the afternoon seafood market in Vinh Thanh, Phuong Dien (Phu Vang District) and the market in Vinh Tu (Quang Cong Commune, Quang Dien District), the weather-beaten saleswomen can tell you all about the characteristics of every single fish as well as the fishing methods and schedules.

This thorough understanding is, perhaps, common to the coastal locals. Ms. Nguyen Thi Sau (from Vinh Thanh market) said with laughter, “honestly, we would worry about our husbands when they went fishing offshore. Now we follow them whenever we have time. There is fish in Vinh Thanh sea all year round. Whether the sea is smooth or rough, there are fishing teams to go for seafood. There are also boats of all sizes.”

The fact that the small bamboo crafts with 20CV engines go towards the sea in this season gives an impression about the strong love for the sea of the fishermen in Vinh Thanh. The leaders of the communal people’s committee were quite proud when they provided us with the information about the increasing number of fishing boats and various secondary jobs as solutions to the idleness, such as logistic services, fishing gear services, net repair and boat-carrying services.

Despite the winter break, the sea is not grey and rough. The weather is still fine, the wind is not so strong, and the wave not so high. Yet the nature is turning harsher and harsher. For those who take fishing as part of life, it is hard to explain why they still have such a special affinity for the sea.

I have heard about the strong belief in the sea through the well-prepared festival of Cau-Ngu (spiritual activities of residents living on water) that is passed over generations. They say that they live on the sea, protected by the Sea God for safe and sound sea trips. Although many people went there forever, the sea is the living source as ever, and the waves are still rushing at the feet.

Story and photos: QUYNH VIEN

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