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Unsustainable fishing leads to exhausted lagoon stocks

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PHU YEN — The Cu Mong Lagoon in the central province of Phu Yen, a major area for harvesting crab, has been depleted due to neglectful management by local authorities, the province has admitted.

The lagoon is over 15km in length and has historically been among the nation's most productive seafood-producing areas. However, crabs in the lagoon recently died off en masse.

Nguyen Thi Hoa, a local crab farmer, said that her family suffered a loss of more than VND50 million (US$2,500) after her crab harvest fell by 80 per cent. Dozens of other farmers in six communes near the lagoon have also suffered considerable losses, with half of 600 cages used for breeding fish in the lagoon also turning unproductive as the environment in the lagoon has become exhausted.

Nguyen Van Cu, a local fisherman, said that it was in the middle of the fishing season, but two-thirds of local boat crews were unemployed due to the exhausted conditions of the lagoon.

Fishermen have overfished the lagoon extensively over the past two years, said Xuan Loc Commune People's Committee vice chairman Nguyen Chung Thinh, accusing fishermen of destroying the lagoon environment by using a kind of anaesthetic imported from China and then raking the bottom of the lagoon with stainless steel implements.

When the substance was sprayed into the water, fish would rise to the surface in a drugged state and be much easier to catch, he explained.

"The raking then disturbed the bottom layer and destroyed the habitat of the fish, while the chemicals polluted the water, killing off the crabs," said Thinh.

Local authorities held meetings to dissuade fishermen from using these methods, but the practice brought them profits of over VND400,000 ($20) per day.

"The number of police in the communes is small, and fishermen would often throw their tools into the water to cover up their activities so the police couldn't catch them or fine them," Thinh said.

"We have just sent a report to the Song Cau Town People's Committee to ask for help," including more patrol boats and support to help fishermen in the area find different livelihoods. — VNS

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