In the summer of 2023, I had the privilege of visiting several fishing villages along the coastline of Phu Yen. Collaborating closely with local authorities and residents, I gained insight into their daily lives and the challenges they face. This invaluable experience provided the foundation for my research problem selection and allowed me to tailor my proposal to the specific nuances of the local context.
Phu Yen, situated on the South-Central coast of Vietnam, is home to a population of 872,964 residents. Remarkably, 21.3% of this population is engaged in aquaculture, encompassing both aquaculture and wild catch activities, contributing significantly to the region's Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) at 25.57% (Phu Yen Statistic Office, 2022). The primary source of livelihood for coastal inhabitants in this province is centered around fishing-related activities. Stretching along the coastline, from Tuy Hoa city to Song Cau district, are several fishing villages that have become integral to the province's identity.
Due to the demanding nature of their work, the majority of fishermen are men, while women provide crucial support. Women contribute by preparing supplies for fishing trips, selling seafood, mending fishing nets, and managing households and childcare. In smaller-scale fishing villages, fishermen typically set out to sea around 3-4 PM and return to the shore between 5-7 AM the following morning. In offshore fishing villages, fishermen form groups of 5-10 members, embarking on fishing trips lasting anywhere from 1 to 2 months. During the storm season, which occurs from September to November each year, they tend to stay at home due to treacherous weather conditions. Presently, fishing activities are under threat from extreme weather events and declining fish stocks, resulting in unstable incomes for fishermen, who heavily rely on the capricious fortunes of the sea. At times, the value of their catch is insufficient to cover the expenses of their fishing expeditions.
Some of these traditional fishing villages have evolved into tourist destinations, attracting both domestic and international visitors. With their longstanding historical roots, these fishing villages serve as repositories of age-old ritual practices. Whales are revered as the guardian spirits of the fishermen, believed to be saviors at sea. When a villager encounters a stranded or weakened whale near the coast, they promptly seek assistance from their village to return the whale safely to the sea. In cases of mission failure or the discovery of a deceased whale on the beach, the villagers conduct a ceremonial ritual and preserve the whale in a dedicated temple. Each village celebrates the Cau Ngu festival every 2 to 3 years to express gratitude to the guardian spirits and invoke blessings for a bountiful catch. During these festivities, folk art, Ho Ba Trao is performed, ensuring the continuity of this ancient musical art form.
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