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Fishing gear village looks to preservation

The Hung Hoc traditional craft village in Nam Hoa Ward in Quang Yen Town, Quang Ninh Province, secured a name for itself over the course of a hundred years and more for making durable and attractive fishing gear from bamboo and wood.

AS REQUIRED: Nguyen Anh Sau and his family often make products under order from fishing families and tourists. - Photo

Items such as bamboo boats, fishing baskets, fish cages, and other fishing gear are still bought by fishermen near and far but the craft village is in danger of falling into oblivion despite its preservation efforts.

On a visit to the village, we saw some beautifully decorated houses making sophisticated fishing gear as well as industrial workshops adjacent to rivers and canals making bamboo boats.

According to Nguyen Anh Sau, who has 40 years of experience in the traditional craft, the reason the village’s fishing gear is famous is because of the sophistication that comes from selecting the best raw materials. Along with quality workmanship and attention to detail, the strips of bamboo or wood used to make the fishing gear are carefully hand-cut. Products from Nam Hoa are therefore not only durable but also beautiful.

Sau is considered a skilled craftsman in the village, with unique creativity. In addition to fishing gear, he also makes beautiful miniature bamboo boats for sale to tourists. His house is also the most appealing destination in the village.

Three generations of Dang Thi Tham’s family have produced many different types of fishing gear, of which bamboo boats are the hardest because the quality greatly depends on the weather.

“Making a fishing boat involves many steps -- selecting the bamboo, whittling strips of bamboo or wood and weaving them into frames, coating the bamboo with tar, and drying everything,” she said.

Vu Van Hung has been in the profession for nearly 30 years. While it takes a long time to make something like a fishing basket, the selling price is low and the profit margin slim.

But he is nonetheless determined to continue the craft. His family spends a lot of their time making bamboo boats and have been applying scientific advances to increase durability.

“There was a time when a lot of people were involved in the occupation, but not now,” he said. “The village’s young prefer other jobs, so it’s mostly only older people still working in the craft. My family still does it, as it is our profession. While I make bamboo boats and fishing gear, though, my wife works in another industry altogether.” 

UNDER PRODUCTION: Bamboo boats being made at the Hung Hoc traditional craft village. - Photo

Next generation

According to Dam Chi Thiet, deputy head of the Economic Department in Quang Yen Town, Hung Hoc has more than 500 households but only 60, with about 300 people, make fishing gear, earning about VND5 million (US$215) per person each month.

“Because the majority of young people prefer other jobs, it’s become quite difficult to employ workers,” Thiet said. “Quang Yen plans to adopt many measures to preserve and develop traditional crafts from 2021 to 2025, including Hung Hoc’s fishing gear.”

The town is re-planning production issues, with display shops advertising local products and promoting sales. It will combine the preservation and development of its craft villages with eco-tourism and spiritual tourism, to attract more visitors. Other types of services can then be developed as well.

Training courses will be held to improve traditional occupations, with products made for fishing, transport, and tourism.

Craftsman Sau was very happy to learn that the town had started a project to preserve and develop its traditional craft villages.

“We remain enthusiastic and confident about our craft,” he said. “But it is difficult to make ends meet. We want to keep our jobs, so we hope that local leaders will give us the support we need to modernise our production methods. As well as making bamboo boats, fishing gear, and other agricultural tools, we also make souvenir items.”

But Sau is concerned by the reality that young local people just don’t want to follow in his footsteps.

“Nam Hoa’s fishing gear, especially our bamboo boats, have long been trusted by customers everywhere,” he said. “I can still earn a good living. A small bamboo boat can sell between VND300,000 and 1 million. My house often has local and foreign tourists visiting. But my children just aren’t interested in learning the craft.”

NEXT IN LINE: Dang Van Nong’s family has been making fishing gear for many generations. - Photo

Similar to Sau, three generations of Nguyen Van Thinh’s family have been involved in the craft.

“People in my generation could try their hand at other jobs, but love their traditional craft and are trying to keep it going. Economic interest is only part of it -- if we didn’t love the job we wouldn’t be pursuing it and trying to improve it," Thinh said.

"It’s actually quite a hard work, and I’m not sure either of my two children wants to be among the next generation of craftsmen. To do this job you must be passionate, and that can’t be forced on anyone.”

With plans in place to make the Hung Hoc fishing gear village and others like it attractive tourist destinations and with the gradual implementation of a project to preserve and develop traditional craft villages in Quang Yen Town, hopefully more and more people will return or stay so that these centuries-old occupations continue well into the future.  VNS

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