Home to the world-renowned UNESCO heritage site of Ha Long Bay, fisheries is a major economic sector for Quang Ninh.
However, despite being a long-standing problem that the local administration has paid attention to, “marine resources are being adversely impacted by harmful, over-exploitative fishing practices,” said Dang Huy Heu, Vice Chairman of the Quang Ninh People’s Committee, told a regular meeting of the People’s Council’ last week.
According to latest estimates, there are currently some 7,500 active fishing vessels in the province, more than 90 percent of them of small capacity. Seventy percent of the vessels are boats powered by 20CV engines. They operate mostly in near-shore areas in Ha Long Bay, Bai Tu Long Bay, and Co To Island.
The Worldwide Wildlife Fund (WWF) has repeatedly warned against trawling and other fishing methods that don’t allow for any release of the catch, meaning that a lot of small fish and sea creatures like coral or turtles not fit for consumption (bycatches) are netted with the main catch, seriously depleting seafood resources.
The emergence of several dangerous and destructive forms of fishing that involve explosives, electrical pulses, pressure pumps and rakes are also destroying marine ecology and diversity.
Nguyen Huu Giang, head of the provincial agriculture department, said that apart from awareness raising campaigns, the department has also organised restocking of baby fish in the seas to replenish the province’s marine resources.
The province has dealt with more than 1,000 violations thus far wherein vessels outfitted with destructive fishing tools have been decommissioned and total fines of 3.8 billion VND (167,000 USD) issued.
However, Giang said the authorities’ efforts are thwarted by resistance from offenders, low awareness on the need to protect marine resources, as well as understaffing issues that prevent consistent, regular inspections.
Participants said at the meeting that the province should continue to focus on replenishing its marine resources and attract private sector investment in building large-scale, hi-tech aquatic breeding centres.
“The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has agreed to allow Quang Ninh to establish a mollusk production area for the northern region, located in Van Don. When e production starts in 2019, breeding supply will be ensured,” Giang said at the meeting.
Other members of the People’s Council also urged measures to “settle livelihood issues” of small-scale and near-shore fishermen when their sole means of livelihood is discouraged.
“There must be policies to provide training for these fishermen for different jobs in service sectors, or providing support and arming them with necessary skills to engage in offshore fishing or aquaculture production,” said Nguyen Van Doc, Secretary of the provincial Party Committee and Chairman of the provincial People’s Council.
Starting next year, the province plans to impose a total ban on fishing in certain sea areas – including the core zone of Ha Long Bay, the Bai Tu Long National Park and other marine reservations.
A provincial-level fisheries resources surveillance force would also be established, instead of relying on the central government’s agency, the meeting heard.