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Just after Go fishing in Cambodiathe flood season, hundreds of fishermen in the sounthern province of An Giang go to Cambodia to catch fish, with the output of thousands of tons.

When the flood recedes, fish go upstream. Therefore, at the end of the flood season in the Mekong Delta, fishermen bring their fishing equipment to Cambodia to net fish. Although they have to pay high rents for fishing areas (called block), they can recover capital and earn profit if they catch about 200-300 tons of white fish.

Mr. Nguyen Van Tung, a fisherman in Khanh An commune, said that in recent years, the fish output in Cambodian has decreased but it is still quite abundant. The reason for that is because the places where Vietnamese fishermen rent water locations are barely inhabited. Some blocks are located along the tributaries of the Mekong River but there are blocks are between submerged moors.

However, more importantly, the local government has performed the protection of aquatic resources well. They have clear regulations on the species of fish for catching, at a specific time in the year. If they find fishermen using nets with dense meshes or electric tools to catch fish, the violators will be heavily penalized. They will have to sell cattle and rice fields to pay a fine, otherwise they will be imprisoned.

According to Tung, every three years, the Ministry of Fisheries of Cambodia holds bidding for exploiting fishing blocks with the fishermen in the two provinces of Takeo and Kandan.

In particular, Kandan has 11 blocks with a total length of 100 km. The Vietnamese fishermen usually buy the right to exploit these blocks from the local people, at the price of 10 times higher, equivalent to VND2.4 to VND4 billion ($110,000-$200,000) a block. Those who do not have abundant capital can buy small lots of 20-30 hectares but the price is not less than VND200 million ($10,000).

After completing the procedures and allocating fishing blocks to the bidding winners, the Ministry of Fisheries and the local government will implement measures to protect fish resources for the breeding season before fishermen are allowed to catch fish.

The fish catching time is counted from the beginning of October (lunar calendar) to June of the next year. At this time, the owners of fishing blocks and dozens of workers use lift nets to catch the first batch of fish in the year.

Each block can yield from 70 to 300 tons of white fish, mostly linh fish. After this phase, fishermen will gather black fish in the large net in the middle of the river. The largest net is about 100,000m2 and can store about 300 tons of fish.

This year flooding is small, but in return there are more black fish. “This year I harvested fish hurriedly so I only caught 140 tons of snakehead fish, but that volume still ensures profit. The traders went to my home to purchase fish and make the payment immediately. I can sell the block after catching fish to others for continuing to exploit at a price of at least VND200 million. There are still so much fish to catch,” Mr Tung said.

However, Tung said the distance from Khanh An commune, An Giang, to his fishing block in Cambodia is only 20 km, but he must go through 15 checkpoints and have to pay VND20,000/person/trip. To protect the fishing block, he had to pay local police a few hundred of US dollars.

In these days, along the Binh Di River (a tributary of the Hau River) in Khanh An commune, An Phu district, An Giang province, one can see hundreds of poor people in the commune and the neighborhood being busy cutting heads of linh fish for fish traders.

Mrs. Ly Thi Ngoc Sinh, an overseas Vietnamese living in Becchay commune, Grass Thum District, Kandan (Cambodia) said in the last 10 years, every flood season, she and more than a dozen people in her village return to their homeland in Khanh An to get the job of cutting fish heads for traders. Each person can cut 6 baskets of fish (150 kg) to earn VND90,000 ($4) a day.

“Doing this work requires fast and smart hands. People prefer to use scissors but I often use a knife to cut fish heads. Currently, the rice fields in Cambodia are “being in the ear,” so poor people like me become unemployed. We return home to work,” she confided.

According to Mrs. La Thi Thuy, a fish trader, most linh fish are imported from Phnom Penh and it takes 3 days to transport fish to An Giang.

After the fish heads are cut, the fish body will be inserted into machines for scaling and cleaning before being transferred to fish sauce processing facilities in Chau Doc. Fish heads and bowels are sold to snakehead fish farms for VND2,000/kg.

Thuy said, there are four big fish traders in Khanh An, who purchase nearly 4 tons of linh fish a day for producing fish sauce.

NLD

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