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18/01/2020 - 07:08

Passions for the giant grouper

Hunts for giant fishes have fallen into the past and these fishes in the waters have become increasingly sparse. And now, they were domesticated in cages and became friends with fishermen through more than a dozen rainy seasons.

A close-up of the “giant” grouper

From memory to reality

Tu Hien Bridge spanning the Tam Giang - Cau Hai lagoon area between Loc Binh and Vinh Hien communes (Phu Loc district) is an important transportation connection for the lagoon area. The water here is also home to the giant grouper which is rare to be found in Tam Giang lagoon.

In the journey to make his living along the waters, Nguyen Van Anh - a senior fisherman from Vinh Hien commune witnessed and experienced many sweet things. Back in time, he recalls the giant grouper which weighed nearly 100kg with a hard-stone head and hovered around the estuary. Local fishermen once whispered about this strange fish. When determining reality and myth, the following capture was a journey, but failed!

 “In 2014, the construction of Tu Hien Bridge was just started. I first saw a giant grouper of about 80kg under the water surface in the bridge construction area. Later, many fishermen also discovered that the fish was sleeping at the foot of the bridge, and more than 20 adept fishermen joined efforts to catch it. However, the fish was too big that exceeded human’s strength so that the fish “pedalled” the water to escape,” said Mr. Anh.

During the journey to look for its fingerlings, fishermen at Tu Hien estuary realized that this giant grouper could be cultured and domesticated in the natural environment. And giant groupers with the size of adult’s calves were hunted and raised in cages not only for economic development but also for fishermen’s passions.

The grouper of Mr. Tran Binh – a resident at Hien Hoa 1 village, Vinh Hien commune, is as big as a pig to be sold

“At Tu Hien estuary waters, the water resource is very favorable and suitable for raising high-value fish, including the grouper. Previously, I had an opportunity to see a natural giant grouper; therefore, I was determined to “hunt” it to raise a huge flock of fish to satisfy my passion,” said Mr. Tran Binh – a resident of Hien Hoa 1 village, Vinh Hien commune.

At Tu Hien estuary, there is only another household, besides Mr. Binh, who dares to raise the giant grouper because breeding this kind of “aquatic monster” requires, in addition to capital, a mind of fishery...

The water surface of Tam Giang – Cau Hai lagoon near Tu Hien estuary is the residence of the giant grouper

Domesticating “aquatic monster”

Along the lagoon, over 50 cages of special fish owned by Mr. Binh are located close together. To reach the cages, he has to row a boat about 100 meters from the shore towards the lagoon.

In addition to a sound of the water patting the two sides of the boat, there is no sound in the area where Mr. Binh is raising this giant fish. Also, the fish cannot be seen as people look down to the cage. A fish cage is about 4m wide and 2m deep. With this cage size, Mr. Binh can raise more than 500 fingerlings of other kinds of fish.

“The fish is sleeping,” softly said Mr. Binh, who then took advantage of the water’s repulsive force to lift the cage up with all his strength so that visitors can see it. The fish swings its tail very strongly to splash the water around the cage.

After 30 years of farming caged fish and 12 years of raising grouper with a weight of nearly 80kg, Mr. Binh memorizes “characters” of the fish. He confides: “The fish needs feeding 2 times a day. Its main foods are human’s calf-size fishes or crabs. If you want to change its taste, you have to add alive shrimp or fish. The hungry fish will move and make the cage shake. Normally, it stays still like a child.”

According to Mr. Binh, the giant grouper has a good resistance. It can adapt to the flood water. Currently, many luxury hotels and restaurants in the Southern part of Vietnam have a great demand for this type of fish. “In the past, I raised 20 giant groupers of 30kg or more. Many customers in the South bought them for VND 550,000kg. I will continue to look for its fingerlings and raise this giant fish,” said Mr. Binh.

Farming this “aquatic monster” requires not only passion but also recklessness. Preliminary, a grouper of about 50kg is raised from 7-8 years and costs about VND 25 million. Yet, it is easy to get lost if a big storm hits the area.

Mr. Le Viet Khanh – a resident of Tan An Hai village, Loc Binh commune and a giant grouper breeder, said: “If the fish is changing is characters, I will be sleepless. Every year, I often clean the cage twice and have to mobilize dozens of men. A carelessness can make the fish “pedal” the water and escape. We sell fish in accordance with customers’ requests. It can be slaughtered then frozen before delivery. The fish that I am raising is ordered for display.”

Meanwhile, Mr. Le Tuy, another resident of Loc Binh commune, shared: “Every time Mr. Khanh cleans the cage, a lot of people are curious to see the fish with excitement and surprise. In Thua Thien Hue province, the giant grouper seems to appear only in Tu Hien estuary waters. The raising of fish with such heavy weight shows that the water around Tu Hien estuary is favored by nature”.

The giant grouper on Tam Giang lagoon is one of the rare fish species. This is a migratory fish with large size, heavy weight and a long lifespan. Its scientific name is Epinephelus lanceolatus and is seen at coral reefs. This species lives throughout the Indian Ocean and Pacific Ocean, except the Persian Gulf. Large ones can be up to 2.7m of length and 600kg of weight. They usually live in shallow water and feed on many marine species.

Story and photos: Le Tho

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