Fishing for Plastic: Fisherfolk in Viet Nam’s Hue City Use Nets to Remove Ocean Plastic

Watch: A hero to “throw net and pick up waste”/Anh hùng buông lưới nhặt rác

‘Fishing’ plastic waste to protect ocean resources

Understanding the threat of plastic to the ocean’s biodiversity has led Mr. Cường, a fisherman in Hue City, Thua Thien Hue Province, to start collecting plastic waste during his trips to the sea. He has been fishing for over 15 years and has seen fishermen and tourists dispose plastic waste in many forms, from single-use water bottles, to plastic bags, and even fishing gear. As his livelihood depends on the ocean, he decided to do something about it.

Plastic in the ocean: a fisherman in Hu, Vietnam started to collecting plastic waste while fishing.
Mr. Cường’s boat is always full of rubbish after each fishing trip, where he removed marine plastic debris from the sea’s surface.

Even though many people would mock Mr. Cường’s effort in the beginning, he continues to pick up plastic trash from the sea. Using simple tools such as small nets or broken baskets to fish out rubbish that he can see from the ocean surface, Mr. Cường would keep then keep the collected trash in his boat until he returned to shore.

Plastic in the ocean: a fisherman in Hu, Vietnam started to collecting plastic waste while fishing.

Collective action among the fishing coastal communities

After a while, his hope to attract more people to join in started to come to fruition. His steadfast approach inspired other fishermen to not throw trash in the ocean and instead collect visible and floating plastic waste, and get them to shore. On average, each fishing boat can collect up to about 20 kg of plastic waste on each trip. 

He also encouraged other fishermen to protect the aquatic resources. At first, only 5 to 6 boats joined the fishing fleet of Thua Thien Hue province to bring plastic waste back to shore, but in a short amount of time, this number has risen to more than 50 fishermen, forming a pioneering fishing fleet to bring more plastic waste back. Their effort has inspired neighbouring provinces such as Quang Binh, Quang Tri, Nghe An, and Da Nang City to do the same, where the local governments in these coastal cities and municipalities are incentivizing fisherfolk to bring waste back to shore. 

WWF-Viet Nam supported Mr. Cường and his friends by providing net bags and equipment to help them bring more marine plastic debris back from the sea. Once the plastics are brought back to land, they are taken to recycling centers or sold to informal off-takers to raise funds for local underprivileged students. So far, they have sold and earned around 27 million VND (approximately 1090 USD) to support the underprivileged students in Thuan An.

Plastic in the ocean: a fisherman in Hu, Vietnam started to collecting plastic waste while fishing.
Mr. Cường, as the representative from the fishermen, accepted the net bag and equipment from WWF Viet Nam

FFor his work in protecting the marine environment, Mr. Cường was awarded the Lương Định Của Award at the end of 2019, a reward of the Hồ Chí Minh Communist Youth Union Central Committee to young people in rural areas with outstanding achievements in production, business, application of modern science technologies, environmental protection, and new rural lifestyle building.


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