Floating village tries eco-tourism

The floating Vung Vieng fishing village in Ha Long Bay, northeastern Quang Ninh Province usually hosts about 15,000 visitors each month. During peak periods the number of visitors soars to 21,000.
Boats carry visitors to Vung Vieng floating fishing village in Quang Ninh Province. The village is promoting responsible tourism with fish farms and tours friendly to environment. (Photo: baoquangninh.com.vn)
Boats carry visitors to Vung Vieng floating fishing village in Quang Ninh Province. The village is promoting responsible tourism with fish farms and tours friendly to environment. (Photo: baoquangninh.com.vn)
On arrival in the village, visitors are welcomed to have meals with local residents, go fishing and sightseeing around the village.
They also have the chance to experience the daily lives of people and children living there. Many of them bring presents, like books, pens, clothes for children or tools for adults.
Visitors, seeking eco-tourism or responsible tourism experiences, are flocking to the fishing villages in ever greater numbers.
The village started as a shelter for boats traveling to Vung Ha Islet in the centre of Ha Long Bay. It takes about three hours by boat to travel from the shore to the floating village.
By 2014, the village was home to 260 people, living in 60 floating houses. That year, residents of Vung Vieng were relocated to land, but they still continue to raise and catch fish in the area.
Since the move, things have changed significantly for the villagers.
Instead of using live trash fish [small fish with little economic value] as feed, fish farms there now use industrial fish feed.
Tang Van Phien, head of Van Chai Ha Long Tourism Co-operative said that the use of trash fish could threaten the marine environment and production because the supply was unstable and its quality is easily degraded if the trash fish was not stored properly.
The trash fish can carry diseases that threaten other species, Phien said.
He said that since April, 2016, fish farms in Vung Vieng floating village were given assistance to build floating houses and fish cages that are made of environmentally-friendly materials.
Phien said that the assistance was part of the Ha Long – Cat Ba Alliance Project, a three-year initiative funded by the United State Agency for International Development, which aims to build partnerships between Government, businesses and civil society. The aim is to catalyse action in order to improve environmental management and protect the natural integrity of the Ha Long Bay World Heritage Site, including the Cat Ba Archipelago.
Under the project, 32 floating houses would be used as a tourism product of Vung Vieng floating village. Until now, seven floating houses have been opened for visitors.
Nguyen Van Huan, a member of the Van Chai Co-operative said that he was happy to learn about environmentally-friendly fish farms.
Since April this year, his family has started growing fish in the new fish cages with industrial feed thanks to assistance from the Alliance Project.
Huan said that the first members developing environmentally-friendly fish farms would raise funds which offered preferential loans to other members of the co-operative.
Head of the co-operatives Phien said that the co-operatives was established in 2008 with the aim of developing new tourism products in Ha Long Bay, and help improve incomes for locals.
As many as 115 local residents were offered to work as boatmen for tours to Vung Vieng Village. Each earns on average VND5-6 million monthly.
“As the number of visitors to the village increases, even up to 21,000 visitors in a month during peak time, the area’s environment faces a heavier burden, particularly the increased amount of waste,” Phien said.
The co-operatives arranged for two people to collect garbage and the boatmen were also asked to help in cleaning up, he said.
Deputy director of Quang Ninh Province’s Agriculture Department Nguyen Van Cong said the model to develop eco-tourism in Ha Long Bay had proved effective, particularly in improving local residents’ income and attracting tourists.
He said that those results proved the need for improved awareness about responsible tourism among Government, businesses, local residents and tourists.

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