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Fishing Communities Stop Destructive Fishing in Vietnam

(Les communautés de pêcheurs stoppent la pêche destructrice au Vietnam)

Chandrika SHARMA

12 / 1997

At the very centre of Vietnam, in the province of Thua-Thien Hue, lies the Tam Giang lagoon. It is a big lagoon with a total surface area of 21,600 sq km. In the rainy season, the water is fresh and floods prevail. But, normally, the lagoon is shallow, with an average depth of 1.5 m, and is becoming increasingly so. Both the mouths of the lagoon are unstable. The southern mouth has been closed on and off for several years. Its closure affects the salinity and species composition in that section of the lagoon. A more permanent, carefully engineered, opening was completed in September 1995. Aquatic resources found in the lagoon include seaweed, sea grasses, crustaceans (crabs and shrimp of many species), molluscs (clams and mussels), and fish- both freshwater and salt-water species-depending on the season.A population of about 220,000 lives around the lagoon, depending on its resources, as well as on agriculture in the sandy soils around the lagoon, and from fishing in the sea. One of the biggest problems they face is the intense overexploitation of aquatic resources. According to data compiled by the Department of Fisheries, the number of fishers in the lagoon rose from 5,575 in 1982 to 9,120 in 1993, while the total production dropped from 4,042 tonnes in 1966 to 1,973 tonnes in 1994. Although statistics on artisanal fisheries are often unreliable, this data, nevertheless, does give some indication of the status of the lagoon fishery and the pressure on resources.The lagoon is intensively exploited using both fixed and mobile fishing gear. In addition, boats are found engaged in `electric fishing’- using batteries and transformers to generate 220 volts of electric power to stun all marine life within a one-metre radius. Also common is to find people on foot, carrying their equipment in backpacks, using electricity to catch fish in marshy areas. As a consequence of such destructive practices, fish and shrimp are decreasing, while the ecological environment is being badly affected. In recent years a two-year project to research the management of the biological resources of the Tam Giang Lagoon, was initiated. In the village of Trung Lang in the Quang Thai Commune, the project team was confronted with the fishers’ plea to help protect their aquatic resources. The main complaint was against the `electric’ fishers, who were mainly farmers looking for alternative sources of income in slack employment periods. Although this activity was illegal by government decree, the law was not enforced. A committee was set up to begin discussions with the commune leaders, a process facilitated by the project team. A notice banning the practice of `electric’ fishing, written by the commune’s official guard in collaboration with the Fishers’ Committee for the Protection of the Environment, was read out over a loudspeaker from the patrol boat. The commune also instituted a system of fines and penalties to be levied on all fishers engaged in `electric’ fishing. However, a four-day grace period gave the `electric’ fishers a chance to get used to the new ruling. In those four days, the committee and its leader patrolled the waters and informed fishers of the new rules. The fishers established a system of guard duty and they patrolled the area at random on boats. At night, though, they found it difficult to apprehend the illegal fishers, particularly those who exploited the marsh area on foot. As a result of such action, `electric’ fishing virtually stopped during daylight hours and decreased at night. Subsequently, neighbouring farming villages joined in the action. They supported the ban by expanding the activities of their night watchmen (who patrolled the fields at night against theft of crops)to include patrolling of rice fields and marshes to drive off `electric’ fishers. Villagers throughout the commune contributed funds for increased surveillance. Even neighbouring communes began to show interest and the practice of `electric’ fishing has begun to decline.



, Vietnam, Tom Giang Lagoon


All over the world the pressure on fishery resources is increasing, and there are unmistakable signs of overexploitation. An important reason behind this is the frequent use of non-selective and destructive fishing gear. Destructive fishing practices, such as those that involve the use of dynamite, poison, and electricity, continue to be employed. Often, such practices are adopted by part-time or occasional fishers, with little long-term stake in the fishery, rather than full-time fishers traditionally dependent on fishing for their livelihood. It is for fishing communities to take the initiative in controlling the use of such destructive practices, as shown by the people of the Quang Thai Commune. It is the responsibility of the state to support such efforts through enacting appropriate legislation, and empowering local communities to manage their resources.


Articles et dossiers

BRERZESKI, Veronika J., Shocking fishing in. Samudra Report, 1996/07, 15

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