Local governments in the north-central provinces have taken multiple measures to support offshore fishing activities so that fishermen can be assured of a livelihood.

Hoang Ngoc Viet, deputy director of Thua Thien Hue Province's Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, said the provincial Aquaculture Division, in co-ordination with local authorities, had encouraged fishermen to set up 14 teams and 40 groups for fishing logistical services.

This would enable offshore fishermen to operate for a long time at sea and save fuel and operational costs, he added.

Viet said that groups of fishing boats equipped with long-range communication systems could facilitate inter-boat communication on the location of fish stock.

The division proposed that authorised agencies create a way to open and close the estuary for each kind of boat.

This would allow boats of more than 90 HP to go to sea early because they had modern equipment and could travel at a high speed safely, he said.

It was also proposed that they continue subsidising fuel costs and provide 100 percent of the funds to buy annual insurance for fishermen and 30 percent of the funds to insure the fishing boats' hulls.

Nguyen Duc Cuong, chairman of Quang Tri Province's People's Committee, said the province had allocated 585 million VND (27,900 USD) to help local fishermen buy or build a new fishing boat, replace the boat's engines, and supply fuel-saving services for fishing and aquaculture.

Support has also been given to provide insurance to fishermen and boats with at least a capacity of 40 horsepower, he added.

He said that the provincial Division of Agro-Aqua-Forestry Products Quality Management had organised 12 training courses on knowledge of food hygiene and safety on fishing boats in seven coastal communes, with the participation of more than 600 fishermen who were boat owners.

Huynh Van Minh, a 54-year-old ex-fisherman in Nghia An Commune in central Quang Ngai Province's Tu Nghia District, said that he spent 13 million VND (620 USD) to install a long-range communication device to be able to easily contact his family's three fishing boats.

Minh's decision came amid a shortage of means of long-range communication in the commune, where there were only two such devices, called Icom, installed at both ends of the commune five years ago.

This has forced relatives of local fishermen to travel a long distance to inquire about them when they are offshore. They have to wait a long time because the commune has a large number of fishing boats.

Minh said the device did not only provide weather information and help him keep track of each of the fishing boats, but also enabled him to actively regulate the boat fleet, which has dramatically raised the economic efficiency of each fishing trip.

Other fishermen in the commune followed in Minh's footsteps by sharing money to equip themselves with long-range communication devices.

The commune also saw the establishment of 38 self-help groups consisting of 400 offshore fishing boats, with each having eight to 12 boats and led by a veteran fisherman responsible for operating the group.

When fishing boats operate at sea, these veteran fishermen will use Icom to inform others about weather conditions and dispatch group members to give support in operations or in case of emergencies.

The device runs for communication purposes three times a day in normal weather and around the clock in stormy conditions.

Tran Thu, a group leader in Tan Hai village, said that to lower fuel costs, some groups sent a couple of boats to go to the sea first for exploration instead of all departing at the same time.

When a fish source is found, the boats will inform them of the specific location, and the remaining fishing boats will head directly to the site.

Huynh Tan Nghia, a boat owner, said that with the exploration time shortened, the cost for each fishing trip had fallen by 20-30 million VND (950 - 1,400 USD).

A group of 10 boats would spread out to cast nets on an area with a circumference of 100 nautical miles, which has increased the chance to find fish stock, he added./.