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The sountel (hand net) fishery system for gathering marsh clam in Seomjingang river

Summary

Detailed Information

Partners

Annexes

Detailed Information

Global significance 

The Sountel Fishery for gathering Marsh Clam in Seomjingang River was recognized for its heritage values such as the source of food and livelihood for residents around the basin, circulation of aquatic ecosystem and maintenance of biodiversity, formation of various local cultures, and formation of noticeable cultural sceneries and was designated as Korea Important Fisheries Heritage System (KIFHS) in 2018.  

Seomjingang River is currently the Korea’s largest marsh clam habitat and the only marsh clam producing center, which accounts for 91% of domestic marsh clam production. While Seomjingang River provides an optimal habitat for marsh clam survival, the marsh clam is purifying Seomjingang River’s water quality and the aquatic ecosystem. 

Food and livelihood security 

The different ecosystems in the regions, allow the diversification of the livelihoods. However, the food of the local communities next to the river is secure mainly by fishing activities. For the residents close to the plains and mountains, the food is secured by the agricultural activities. They are mainly rice farming in the areas where the plains are developed and tea farming and fruit farming such as persimmons, and plums in the area adjacent to the forest border. 

Residents have made a living by selling surplus products from their farming and fishing activities or by exchanging forest products and agricultural products produced in the inland's areas or marine products from the South Sea with each other through the markets. However, marsh clam gathering is the means of living that can generate higher income in a short period of time. Seomjongang River’s annual clam production (gathering) is approximately 2,622 mt, accounting for more tha 91% of Korea’s annual marsh clam production (approximately 2,880 met). 

Agrobiodiversity 

There are three types of marsh clams collected at Seomjingang River: Corbicula fluminea, Corbicula leana, and Corbicula japonica. Most the Marsh Clams mentioned in the site are Corbicula japonica, which inhabits the brackish water in the estuary where the salinity is moderate. 

Marsh clams have a relevant ecosystem function. Indeed, there are filter feeding organisms that collect and filter plankton and organic particles dispersed in water through the movement of cilia and bristles and purify water and maintain aquatic ecosystem in order. Marsh clam shells are also used as fertilizers in orchards and fields around the river. Since the shell is composed of pure calcium carbonate produced in nature, it has high adsorption efficiency for pollutants and prevents weeds, and the organic matter on the shells acts as a lime fertilizer. 

The diverse ecosystems in the region provides environments for a high number of species. The riffles and pools of the river Seomjingang serve as habitats for aquatic creatures such as aquatic insects and attached algae, which provide food for fishes, and are also a breeding ground for fishes. The Estuary is the home of endangered wildlife such as: 104 species of birds, 5 species of mammals, 49 species of fishes, 40 species of freshwater invertebrates, 57 species of brackish invertebrates, 86 species of plant plankton and 59 of zooplankton. 

Local and traditional knowledge systems 

Sountel Fishery for Gathering Marsh Clam consists of four main processes.  

i) the preparation for full-scale the sountel fishery,  

ii) the sountel fishing using georangyee,  

iii) shorting marsh clams,  

iv) washing and selling marsh clams.  

This method implies to scrape the riverbed with the Georangyee (a Korean Traditional clam rake) to gather marsh clams. By doing so, at a proper depth and intensity, this method reduces the eutrophication process by helping the circulation of organic matters and oxygen. In this way, it creates a long-lasting ecological environment for the various species in brackish areas. 

The representative dish made with this marsh clam is the marsh clam soup. Marsh clam soup first appeared in the market by female peddlers from the 1950s. From the 1980s, its commercial value has increased as it has been known as a high protein food. 

The Alps Hadong Seomjingang River Marsh Clam Festival is a relevant event hold since 2015 to develop tourism resources from Seomjingang River and its representative resource: marsh clam. The festival is a summer festival focusing on the culture and marsh clam of Seomjingang River. 

Cultures, value systems and social organizations 

From the past, marsh clam gatherers have worked in cooperation with each other through fishermen’s cooperative groups called the “dure”. Moreover, local communities and residents are working to secure continuity in fisheries activities by preventing the overfishing through the Total Allowable Catch system (TAC) management to preserve the population of marsh clams and protect fish resources. 

People of all ages are engaged in marsh clam gathered, with a relevant representation of the young generations (43.7%). With this representation, intergenerational transmission of fishing activities knowledge and practices is assured. Sountel fishery is the fishing activity that can be easily carried out by the elderly and women without special qualifications or limitation on age or gender, and it is contributing to the creation of jobs for the elderly and women in the region and the revitalization of local economy. 

Landscapes and seascapes features 

The Seomjingang River Estuary area is surrounded by mountains such as Jirisan Mountain and Baegunsan Mountain, and it has formed beautiful natural landscapes such as the water fog that wraps around the foot of Jirisan Mountain. The representative sceneries of the Estuary are “Hwagae Market” and “Simni Cherry Blossom Path” which in April presents the spectacular cherry trees in full bloom. Remarkable landscapes are confirmed by the wild tea fields in the Hwagae area, together with the surrounding forest scenery, vegetation and rocks on the slopes of the forest area.