As the fishing boats come in, no one is happier to see them than the fish brokers, middlemen who buy up the day’s catch for resale to the markets. This is the story of Tam Teo, a 50-year-old fish broker in Mui Ne.
“My day starts out at 2 am when I’ll make the rounds and go wherever the fishermen come in – the beaches, rivers and markets,” says Tam Teo, 50. “You never know what you’re going to get from day to day. It all depends on the ocean. Some days, there’s nothing. Last night, there were a lot of waves, so today, it’s just been little crabs. There’s not much profit in them. I bought these for VND 10,000 a kilo and I’ll sort them out by size.
“The little ones fetch VND 15,000 a kilo for people to pickle or salt. The bigger ones can be steamed and they’ll go for VND 35,000-40,000. It’s not much, but it’ll be enough to pay for my gas and some food. My dad used to be a fisherman, so I’ve been around the sea all my life. It’s not for me, though. One time, I went out on a fishing boat and panicked because I couldn’t see any houses or land, just the ocean in every direction. It was too big. I need the ground under my feet.
“Fishing is a hard life. Everyone knows someone who’s disappeared on the sea, their bodies never having been found. When my father saw it was getting hard, he quit. He said you never know when you’re going to die. It was hard as a kid whenever he’d be out fishing. We’d be sitting at home wondering how he was doing and whether he’d come home safely.
The fishing industry now is too modern, they’re catching too much. Our resources are dwindling. If the fishing industry dies out one day here, I’m not sure that I’d be sad because there’s nothing joyful about it. None of my brothers followed in my father’s footsteps; they mainly work for the government. My son is in 8th grade now and I want him to get a desk job. But for me, I’ll stick with this until I’m old. When I think of working in an office, I feel sick. With this, I’m my own boss. I can stay home and sleep whenever I want. I don’t have to think a lot and get headaches. Here, you say what you’re thinking and do what you want. It’s not a great life, but it’s my life.”