In open seas off the coast of Sihanoukville, Vietnamese fishermen floating in cane baskets are the bottom rung of a lucrative squid-fishing racket that extends to the highest echelons of the Cambodian navy.
For 15 hours a day—from before the sun rises until after it is gone—Nguyen Truong is cast adrift in a cane basket, bobbing around the open seas fishing for squid.
“In Vietnam, there is no squid,” the 69-year-old said from his fishing basket last week.
“Cambodia has squid, and we need it.”
Each morning at about 4 a.m., dozens of unflagged fishing boats detach from moorings off the islands of Koh Tang and Koh Rong Sanloem and motor into open water, where they lower hundreds of Vietnamese anglers into solitude, and an ocean teeming with squid.
Shortly after 7 p.m., the mother boats return, hauling the fishermen aboard and heading back to their moorings to tally the day’s catch.
“I can collect up to 10 kg of squid each day,” Mr. Truong said through a translator. “Once a week, we go to Koh Tral, where we sell the squid for [about $5] a kilo.”
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