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'Otter' men in Vietnam’s central fishing village

'Otter' men in Vietnam’s central fishing village

Sunday, November 20, 2022, 10:17 GMT+7
'Otter' men in Vietnam’s central fishing village
Le Van Cam is ready for his fish hunting. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

A village in Nam O Beach at the foot of Hai Van Pass, Da Nang City, central Vietnam is home to fishermen whose diving skills are so renowned that they are dubbed as “otter” men. 

“Hello, I caught a golden pompano weighing up to 12 kilograms yesterday,” Le Van Cam, whose nickname is “Cam sin”, told us about his great prize from his fishing trip the previous day. 

Trophies from the sea 

Cam had to dive under reefs at night to catch the big fish. 

Nam O Beach in the early morning was crowded with big and small boats returning from the previous night’s fishing trip. And the news that Cam got the rare fish woke up his colleagues. 

Many waited for him to witness the giant fish. A trader saw the fish and asked Cam to sell it for VND3 million (US$120.9). 

The fishing village by Nam O Beach looks old, peaceful, and mysterious.

Most of the stories told by young and old villagers are about hunting and catching fish which is not only a job but also an art. 

Many villagers gave up their fishing jobs to become blue-collar workers in cities, but they then returned to the fishing village. 

A group of four men talked about their night fishing trip. They followed a big grouper, but the chase had to stop as the seabed became murky suddenly.

Le Van Cam with his giant golden pompano weighing up to 12 kilograms. Photo: V.Tai / Tuoi Tre

Le Van Cam with his giant golden pompano weighing up to 12 kilograms. Photo: V.Tai / Tuoi Tre

Their stories were livelier with the sounds of their hands clapping on their thighs and tongue clicking. 

Nguyen Van Thuc, a fisherman in Nam O, said that he had caught a grouper weighing nearly eight kilograms.

The natural groupers are sea specialties worth hundreds of Vietnamese dong per kilogram.  

Thuc said, “Da Nang sea is home to groupers, but it is hard to catch them. I had to dive all night and luckily saw the one. I chased and caught it with a slingshot.”

Lure fish by their own body 

The biggest fish that Le Van Cam caught weighed more than 30 kilograms. It was a manta ray swimming ashore to give birth. 

Recently, another giant manta ray scared Cam and his father Le Van Tai when the big fish chased their boat and raised up its tail in front of them. 

“This fish was much bigger than the fish I caught before,” Cam showed his pity. 

They missed the fish because the seabed was covered in darkness.   

Tai said he used to give up the job of a fisherman as he lied half-dead many times.

However, his son has such a big passion for the sea that he quit his job as a manager of a factory which helped him earn VND20 million ($804) per month.

Fishing is a generation-to-generation job in Nam O. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Fishing is a generation-to-generation job in Nam O. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Tai then decided to support his son. 

In the early morning, Tai and his son carried their fishing tools to their small boat to prepare for a fishing trip to Nam O Reef. 

After two hours, they reached Nam O where they began amazing chases. Each boat owner had their own area in Nam O. 

The sun shining on the faces of the fishermen, made them burn. But the fishermen continued their job. Tai looked to the seabed to find fish and gave his son a sign to drop the anchor. 

As Cam now could dive as well as an “otter,” his father did not need to follow him as before. 

Simple tools they need during a fishing trip include diving clothes, propellers, gloves, special socks for walking under the sea, lead blocks to keep them at the seabed, and a slingshot. 

Cam jumped into the sea quickly. Observing him from the boat, he looked like an otter. 

Meanwhile, Tai on their boat threw a net to catch small fish.

After several minutes, Cam came up out of the water with a fish in his hands. 

The two skillful fishermen shared that when diving, they could see an amazing sea world. To be able to catch a big one, they even lured fish with their own body.

“Our black diving suit attracts many kinds of fish. What the divers need to do is find a place with many fish and stay still.“When a fish comes close enough, the divers shoot it with the slingshot,” Cam said with excitement.

'Otter' men 

Divers in Nam O can earn up to VND2 million ($80.5) per fishing trip if they catch groupers, snappers, and rabbitfishes. However, they will have nothing on days when the sea turns murky. 

Diving is a job for strong men. They share the workload and enjoy lunch or dinner with fresh fish by the sea. 

Don’t make extermination among all fishes 

There are around 100 diver teams in Nam O.

Some work in daylight and others work at night, which helps maintain sea resources and reduce the impact on the environment. 

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Vuong Anh - Thai Ba Dung / Tuoi Tre News


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