As the day breaks, fishing boats flock towards the shore in Nhan Trach Commune, Bo Trach District with their overnight catch. With 80 percent of people in the central Vietnam commune relying on fishing for a living, it seems that the entire population is at the beach at dawn.
“I caught 700 kg of fish today,” says Le Van Roan, a 63 year-old fisherman, smiling as he carries part of his day’s catch.
Roan set sail the previous afternoon and cast his nets around 13 km from the shore. Focusing on sardines, Roan returns to the shore every day at around 3 a.m. to prepare for the market.
Coracles are used to transfer the catch from the boats to the shore.
Traders crowd the coracles as soon as they reach the shore.
The 500 m long Nhan Trach fish market has functioned for decades. There are no counters. The fish is displayed on plastic burlaps on the sand or kept in rectangular plastic trays. At this time, fishing boats are anchored in shallow waters, waiting for their catch to be taken ashore.
A small trader divides the fish into the trays, each weighing 10 kg, plus smaller plastic trays for 3kg.
In addition to sardines, the market also sells many other types of seafood, like scad and squid.
The fresh fish trays are sold to small traders right at the beach, close to the water.
Meanwhile, several trays of fish are taken on a shoulder pole carried by two people to the storage area about 50 m from the market.
A worker puts ice in the trays to keep the fish fresh. The fish is gathered thus for about 1-2 hours, waiting for all the fishermen to arrive before the trays are taken to refrigerated trucks that will take them to a fish sauce making facility in the commune.
It is around 7 a.m. when workers load the fish onto the truck.
Nguyen Viet Tien (left), owner of the fish sauce production facility, says he has purchased about 1.5 tons of sardines and anchovies. “The purchase depends on the productivity of the fisherman. There are days we only buy 200 kg, but there are days it can go up to 10 tons.”
Of late, Nhan Trach Market has been attracting many tourists who like to experience its atmosphere, interact with the fisherfolk, learn about their lives and most importantly, buy some really fresh seafood. A few visitors from Hanoi are excited as they see fresh squid in a tray with sparkling skin.
Two men bring big blocks of ice out, preparing for the next trip in the afternoon.
This market remains open until 8 a.m. As the trading continues, fishermen anchor their boats and head to the shore to rest.
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