Nearly 2,700 seafarers on fishing boats off a province in southern Vietnam are in dire need of food and fishing equipment as their supply vessels are not allowed to operate under a strict movement curb mandate introduced by local authorities last month.
In a mandate issued on August 25, the People’s Committee of Ba Ria - Vung Tau Province ordered all fishing boats, including service boats for offshore fishing vessels, to cease operation in order to quell the spread of the coronavirus.
At the time, 284 fishing boats from the province were still offshore, carrying a total of 2,700 crew members.
After over a month at sea without additional supplies, the fishermen are seeing their food and fuel reserves running low, forcing them to share resources to survive.
Acknowledging the urgent issue, Ba Ria - Vung Tau authorities are considering a proposal on permitting 72 fishing service boats to operate so as to provide the offshore boats with essential supplies.
According to officials, the inability to contain COVID-19 spread of local fishing harbors has prompted the authorities to pause their operations, commencing safety protocols, contact tracing, as well as putting a ban on all fishing activities.
The sea ban was faced with criticism from local fishermen.
“The coronavirus spreads from the harbor to the sea, not vice versa," said a local seafarer.
"Why does the province prevent us from going on with our livelihoods?
He suggested that the province ensure COVID-19 safety by letting vessels moor at local ports, but fishers are not allowed to disembark.
Harbors should mobilize a dedicated team of porters who live, work, and rest at the same place while requiring outsiders to present coronavirus-negative test results before they can enter the facilities, he added.
“The harbors should come up with a solution rather than banning fishermen from going fishing,” he insisted.