VnExpress International
The most read Vietnamese newspaper
Contact us |
Follow us on       

Support fishermen, protect water sovereignty: insiders

By Staff reporters   July 11, 2022 | 05:31 am PT
The government should support fishermen stranded because of high fuel prices because their long-term absence from the seas can undermine water security and sovereignty, several stakeholder say.

Dang Cong Ngu, former chairman of Hoang Sa District in Da Nang, said fishermen were "living landmarks" in maintaining sovereignty at sea. They don't just catch fish; they also function as "eyes and ears on the sea" for law enforcement agencies, he said.

"As the fuel prices continue to increase, many fishermen have decided to stay back on shore as they're afraid of suffering losses. If no one dares to go to the sea, we will gradually lose the fortresses that protect our Fatherland," said Ngu.

According to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, recent fuel price hikes have caused more than half of the nation's fishing fleet of more than 91,700 boats to stay ashore for almost a month now, especially along the central coast.

Fishermen sail back to their boats after working some manual jobs on the shore in Da Nang, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Fishermen sail back to their boats after working some manual jobs on the shore in Da Nang, July 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Since the beginning of the year, domestic retail gasoline prices have gone through 18 adjustments with 13 increases and five decreases. After a major reduction from Monday, each liter of E5 RON 92 costs VND27,788 ($1.18) - up 23 percent from the end of last year, each liter of RON 95-III VND29,675 - up 27 percent, and diesel VND26,593 per liter - up nearly VND10,000.

According to the ministry, fuel accounts for 45-60 percent of the input costs of fishing vessels. The increase in fuel prices pushed that of other commodities needed for fishing by 10-15 percent. As a result, the input costs have increased by 35-48 percent while the selling prices of seafood remain the same.

In most cases, fishermen have taken various manual jobs on the shore to make ends meet.

Ngu said the authorities should come up with a policy quickly to help fishermen return to the sea, and it should apply to all localities with fishing grounds.

Nguyen Chu Hoi, deputy chairman of the Vietnam Fisheries Society, said when fishermen make offshore trips, they don't just work to earn an income, but also demonstrate their civil rights in protecting Vietnam's waters.

Besides, with more fishing boats kept at bay, there will be a shortage of supply in the production-export supply chain. "Fisheries and aquaculture have different customers and tastes, so it is impossible to say that aquaculture products can replace caught seafood," said Hoi.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has proposed that the ministries of industry-trade and labor submit to the government a support package proposal for the fishermen, providing each with six months of minimum wages.

While supporting this proposal, Ngu said there was still a need for long-term support policies.

Maritime militia

Vietnam already has the Law on Militia and Self-Defense and a regime for militias on land, so the same policy can be applied to form a maritime militia to create extra jobs for fishermen.

"While waiting for a general policy on reducing petrol prices, we can support fishermen in this way to encourage them to be more present at sea," Ngu said.

Fishermen sell fish caught in Hoang Sa fishing ground to traders at a port in Da Nang, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Fishermen sell fish caught in Hoang Sa fishing ground to traders at a port in Da Nang, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Nguyen Dong

Nguyen Viet Thang, chairman of the Vietnam Fisheries Society, said Vietnam has around one million fishermen and in most cases, they are their families' breadwinners.

Therefore, there is an urgent need to help them get back to sea, Thang said, pointing out that until now, none of the financial aid packages Vietnam has released during the Covid-19 pandemic has been designed particularly for fishermen.

He said the central bank should consider and propose soon to the government a policy of extending debt repayment periods and granting preferential loans for fishermen to help them restore production.

Nguyen Duc Loc, head of the HCMC-based Social Life Research Institute, said fishermen should be given immediate aid to meet household expenses for half a year, given that they are unable to make offshore trips for fear of making losses.

Given the characteristics of their profession, it will be difficult for fishermen to switch to other occupations, including as unskilled labor, he said.

In the long run, authorities should come up with medium and long-term solutions to solve the problem of high fuel costs, Loc said.

He suggested relevant units create a fuel fund and give it to fishermen in advance. At the same time, there should also be solutions to raise the prices of seafood that fishermen supply to businesses, including trade promotion programs and policies to cut production costs for seafood exporters.

 
Enjoy unlimited articles and premium content with only $1.99 Subscribe now
 
go to top