A small fishing village located near the estuary of Tu Hiên, in Thua Thiên-Huê (Centre), managed to leave the difficult traditional way of life to focus on breeding exceptional fish for the supply luxury restaurants.
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|The fishing village of Tân An Hai.|
While dawn has not yet appeared on the Tu Hiên estuary, the small fishing village of Tân An Hai, in the Phu Lôc district, home to nearly 20 households, is already animated by the sound of motorboats on the fish-farming area. Women prepare food for the fish. Tanned men are submerged in water to feed them. In the floating cages, snappers, groupers, brown fish, scorpion fish… scramble to grab the bait.
This village is known to be a good place to live thanks to the profession of “fattening wild fry”. Lê Viêt Khanh, 54, dives next to a cage to feed the fish, happily explaining: “In this cage there are more than 20 snappers, bred for more than 2 years, weighing 3-4 kg. They eat well, almost 10 kg of fresh fish crisps every day. We caught them when they were as small as the end of a chopstick”.
Mr. Khanh enthusiastically shares: “My family once set a record for raising a 72 kg grouper, which was sold for 25 million VND”.
Memories of a poor
|Lê Viêt Khanh earns his living by raising fish in the Tu Hiên estuary.|
Mr. Khanh was one of the first inhabitants of the fishing village to start fish farming in the wild before 1999. At that time, the whole village lived on boats, and fishing on the lagoon.
By not having a stable place to live, these inhabitants were still confronted with poverty and lack of education. The historic flood of 1999 destroyed boats and washed away all property and livelihoods. This, however, provided an opportunity for fishermen to land, at a time when the government was implementing the policy of relocation and allocation of land to build houses.
“I’ve always wanted to settle on the shore. This hope motivated me every day”. Upon arrival on land, “I had the idea of raising fish in cages. With a small sum, my husband and I bought nets, cut bamboo to make cages, then caught wild fish to breed in.”, says Mr. Khanh.
Unique job of “fattening”
Mr. Khanh explains that the particularity of cage fish farming in this region is that the fry must be caught in the wild in the Tu Hiên estuary. “From 7e and until 11e day of the 6th lunar month, it is the breeding season for wild fish. During this period, fishermen would go to the estuary to catch young fish and bring them inland to raise them.”.
“We also bought artificial varieties before, but they were not suitable for the environment of this region, so they died gradually”, adds Mr. Khanh.
In addition, the farming of these wild fish uses wild caught and chopped fish, instead of industrial feed.
“Snapper, grouper, scorpion, brown… are the favorite specialties of luxury restaurants. But they can live only in brackish water, lagoons and estuaries, in clean water. Their food is mainly chopped fresh fish. They eat four to five times a day, so their flesh is the most delicious among brackish water fish species”, says Mr. Khanh.
According to Khanh, for effective breeding, in addition to experience, it is also necessary to provide meticulous care and to understand the growth characteristics of the fish. With more than 10 cages, his family has a year-round source of fish to sell, generating 15 to 20 million VND in profit per month.
Next to Mr. Khanh’s house is 52-year-old Huynh Van Thanh, also a successful fish-farming household. Mr. Thanh confides that through cage fish farming, his house was built with a cost of over 700 million VND in 2019, fully equipped with the profits generated by more than 20 fish cages.
“This natural caged fish still attracts restaurants and traders, with the current price ranging from 300,000 to 350,000 VND per kilo. Every year, with 20 fish cages, my family earns more than 300 million VND” shares Mr. Thanh.
He is happy with the results of his work: “Before, I just wanted to have enough to eat, and to dress myself, in order to escape the hard life on the boats. I never dreamed of a life like today. But after many efforts, I have my own house, and gradually a stable life”.