The Fisheries Agency on Friday commended Yen Chu-ying (嚴竹英) of Yunlin County and Su Kuo-chen (蘇國禎) of Greater Kaohsiung for being model fishermen and said it hoped other fishermen would follow their example.
Yen, 55, said she dreamed of becoming a flight stewardess when she was a child, but later became a hostess on Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) trains. However, she gave up her career aspirations when she got married and moved to Yunlin.
Yen, who grew up in northern Taiwan, said she was not used to the living environment in Yunlin, and had second thoughts about the wedding when she learned that she had to raise eels with her husband.
“The first time I saw the eels — big, black and slippery — I was scared out of my mind,” Yen said, adding that she was too afraid to touch them.
Life in the small fishing village was inconvenient, and being the focus of everyone’s attention on the streets was very embarrassing, she said.
“I often thought of running back to Taipei,” but she stayed on because she really loves her husband, she said.
Thirty years later, Yen has gone from being a waishengren (外省人) — Mainlanders who fled from China with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) after 1949 — who could barely speak Hoklo to being fluent in the language and a successful eel breeder.
Yen is currently one of the leaders of government-sponsored aquaculture classes who have successfully redefined Punan (埔南) in Yunlin as a major area for raising eel.
She expressed the hope that they would be able to set up an “Eel Story House” for people to learn how the nation’s eel industry has developed and flourished over the years.
The other awardee, Su, 66, used to work for the Criminal Investigation Bureau in Greater Tainan’s Sinying District (新營). He resigned as a police officer about 20 years ago to manage the family business after his father fell ill.
Su currently leads a class on grouper raising and marketing in Greater Kaohsiung’s Yongan District (永安).
He said that raising grouper was harder than it seemed.
“They are difficult to control because they live in water,” Su said, adding that he does not dare go on holiday because he has to tend to his fish ponds.
Although his son recently quit his job at chipmaker Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co and is coming home to take over the business, Su said he was still worried.
It is a very bad time for the grouper industry, with prices continuing to fall, he said.
“We hope that the government can help the industry think of some viable methods to help breeders sell their products,” Su said.
This is the only way it can attract the younger generation to return home and carry on the group breeding business, he said.