The fishing communities who live on the bay still retain their own special culture. Halong Bay, on Vietnam’s northeastern seacoast, is often considered one of the world’s most beautiful bays. Beside its aesthetic importance , geomorphology, and biodiversity, Halong Bay is also significant for cultural and historical reasons. The bay is a home of the ancient Viet people with occupation by various cultures dating back some 18,000 years, and many important cultural and historical relics from these peoples have been found.
There are four residential areas of fishermen living on the bay, about 400 households totaling approximately 1.000 people. The fishermen live on boats and floating wooden houses in the core-zone of Halong Bay, which is dozens of kilometers away from the mainland. They have no home or land ownership and their main livelihood is fishing and aquaculture.
The first two fishing villages were formed in the beginning of the nineteenth century, and they were called Giang Vong and Truc Vong. Due to rising waters, the people made homes from boats, though they maintained an ancestral shrine on the mainland. For village meetings they simply dropped anchor. From 1946 to 1954, during the war against the French, the people scattered among various islands, and returned to rebuild their floating villages when the region was stabilized.
The people of the village operate as a close-knit family, and children as young as 5 are experts at vulnerable. Living away from the mainland, however, has always been a struggle, notably in getting the children educated. Today, the greatest challenges to life in the fishing villages are related to the environment, especially climate change, as increasingly violent storms kill fish or damage equipment. Pollution is also a concern, including byproducts of construction work and industrial runoff enter the water, trash from locals and less conscious tourists, and from the villagers themselves, who have no toilets.
The sustainability of the current way of life of the villagers is also a cause for concern. People are aware that the steady supply of fish and shellfish will not last forever, and there is also a need for the communities to plan out what changes they will need to adapt to rising seawater and the effects of tourism in the area. Living in the Halong Bay World Heritage site incorporates many cultural values that are both tangible and intangible, and protecting these assets is essential to protecting these people.
Due to the fact that these tight-knit and well-established communities live in such a fragile ecosystem, their lives are very vulnerable to the slightest changes. These shifts can center on economic changes, such as a loss of tourism income or changes in the demand for their products, or even geological changes, like sea-level rises. Cultural centers, such as the one in Cua Van, are helpful for addressing potential changes to the villages. Other centers like this would be helpful as a venue for meetings on changing techniques to better protect the environment and prevent degradation of the bay. The impact of the lack of education systems and access to vital information also constrains these efforts, and the competative nature of the fisherman may also put pressure on cooperation. Community engagement, involving both men and women, is essential to enforcing different protocols that various clubs and groups create to meet the needs of the community.