Vietnamese Fishermen of Monterey Bay

Essay by snjalil1University, Bachelor'sA-, February 2009

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Between 1975 and 1981, 1,500 predominantly Vietnamese Indochinese refugees settled in the Monterey Bay area of central California. They were part of one-quarter million Indochinese refugees who entered the United States during that period, almost one-third of whom came directly to California (Kim and Nicassio 1980). (This Mini-Lecture may be tied in with the general subjects of immigration or refugees.)Vietnam is a long, narrow coastal country bordering on the South China Sea. Fishing and other maritime industries have historically been very important to the Vietnamese economy and society, and many of the refugees who came to the United States had a background in these industries. Many of those who settled in Monterey Bay went into the fishing industry, both as crewmen for non-Vietnamese and as captains of their own boats. Much of the following is taken from Beckwith and Orbach (1982) and Orbach (1983).

The settlement of these Vietnamese in Monterey and their entry into the fishing industry in particular created a number of cultural conflicts between them and the long-term residents of the area.

One of these conflicts involved perceptions of appropriate uses of the natural environment.

In Vietnam, fishermen pursued what might be termed a "use ethic" in fishing. They fished for subsistence--to feed themselves--and their style of fishing was to fish in an area until it was no longer economical to do so. They then moved on to other areas, fishing in the same fashion, eventually returning to the original area, by which time the fish population had returned to an economically viable state. This was an ecologically sound procedure in the very fecund, near-shore environment of the South China Sea. And, as one fisherman said, "I am thirty years old, and I have never shopped in a supermarket for my food!"In Monterey, however, the...