The key enterprise in Duy Hai, Vietnam is fish processing. The local fleet of fishing boats travels ever farther afield to snare enough of the tiny fish to satisfy customers in the Chinese market. Anita and I visited the village on the central Vietnamese coast on an early morning photographic tour.

The processing begins immediately after the morning’s haul has been sorted. We were able to follow the fish from the arrival of the fishing fleet in the Duy Hai Harbor and delivery on shore, through the processing shed and on to the drying racks outside. Tiny fish not shipped out to China are sent to nearby facilities for producing the tangy fish sauce used in so many dishes in Vietnamese cuisines.

Fish ready for processing, Huy Dai, Vietnam

In a straightforward, two-step process, the entire morning’s catch was dispatched while we watched. The villagers’ teamwork was impressive, and they were eager to show us how the work is done.

Step 1: a few minutes on the boil

Duy Hai
Boiling the fish just delivered from the morning catch
Duy Hai
Time to check fish on the boiler
Duy Hai
Stacked trays of steaming fish are lowered onto carts in preparation for air-drying.

Step 2: open-air drying, for as long as it takes

Duy Hai
Taking pallets of boiled fish out for drying
Duy Hai
Still-steaming racks of fish are set out to dry
Duy Hai
An astonishing amount of fish passes through small facilities such as this one in Duy Hai, Vietnam.
Duy Hai
Fish drying racks waiting for sun!

The work of fishermen along the Vietnamese coast near Hoi An is an increasingly arduous business: depleted fish stocks force the boats ever farther out to sea for a morning’s work. We were told that most of the men working the boats cannot swim.

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This post is excerpted from Tom’s Travels, a blog I wrote while living and working in Southeast Asia in 2010-2011.

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