Fisher Folk: No Money, Happiness, Or Hope
By Phonesavanh Thikeo, Vientiane Times, Laos
Tanida Sirorattanakul, The Bangkok Post,
Ten years ago when the high-tech trawlers came to fish near their
village, the little girl who watched them never imagined the large ships
would steal her way of life.
But for 23-year-old Aree
Prommoon and most of her community plenty of food, money, and gold
necklaces are now just a distant memory.
Born to a prosperous fisher family
in Plai Sai village at the tip of Talumpuk Spit in Pak Phanang, southern
Thailand, Aree is now familiar with the words " poverty and
"Iím not the only one affected by trawlers. All
villagers are. We suffer greatly and have [a] very insecure situation. No
money, no happiness and no hope," said Aree, who, like her mother before
her, is now the wife of a fisherman.
According to villagers,
back in the good old days, Laem Talumpuk was one of the most fertile
fishing grounds in the area. Plenty of fish, shrimp, and crab were always
available for the small-scale fishermen in the village.
during the last ten years the livelihoods of Aree and other villagers in
Plai Sai village have been slowly eroded. And trawlers are no longer
considered an interesting curiosity, but the enemy.
agree trawlers cause severe damage to coastal fishing grounds by tearing
into the reef and sea-grass beds which provide food and sanctuary to
The fishing method is also indiscriminate, sweeping up
everything in its path though trawlers may be hunting specific species like
shrimp, everything is taken. The so called " trash " species,
often valuable in their own right, are likely to be sold to fish meal
factories to be ground down into animal food and
Although the law prohibits trawlers from catching
fish inside a three-kilometer zone off the coast, the Fisheries Department
rarely succeeds in preventing encroachment by trawlers.
[trawlers] often steal in at night and sweep the area of all fish with
their large nets. And there [is] nothing left for us," said Uan, who
finally sold his fishing boat and became a truck driver several years ago
because his catch dropped drastically.
He explained that some
fishermen in the village have had to shift their fishing efforts to the
nearby mangrove forests where toxic waste water from the shrimp farms is
discharged. Others, he said, have given up fishing altogether and have
moved to big cities like Bangkok where they work in
The days when men would go out to fish and the
women would stay home to care for the family have
Today, everyone is working hard just to make ends
"Many times, the catch is not enough to feed our family
members. Many times, we have to eat canned fish. So, donít ask about
saving money, itís impossible," said Aree, smiling through sad and tired
As the wife of a fisherman, she plays an important role
in helping her husband to earn the familyís income.
poorly educated person Ė like most villagers Ė Aree doesnít have many
choices. She collects small shrimp in the nearby deteriorated mangrove
forest, earning only about 70 to 80 Baht a day.
percent of the villager at Plai Sai are suffering similar hardships Ė the
richest people are food sellers and the owner of the grocery
"The fisherman has become history, a forgotten career that
we can tell our children about in future," Aree said.