Vietnam Fisheries Managers, MSC, WWF and Industry Representatives Agree on Launching Historic Fishery Improvement Project for Vietnam Handline and Longline TunaRepresentatives of the Vietnam Department of Capture Fisheries and Resource Development (DECAFREP), WWF Vietnam, WWF Coral Triangle Network Initiative, MSC, the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, the Vietnam Tuna Association, processors, fishermen, US and EU tuna importers and other stakeholders held a historic conference and inception workshop to discuss entering the Vietnam longline and handline tuna fishery into the process for MSC sustainability certification through a Fisheries Improvement Project.
Mr. Pham Ngoc Tuan, DECAFREP Tuna Project Manager, kicked off the workshop with a presentation on the current situation of Viet Nam tuna fisheries from the government perspective. He explained that the fishery is still rather antiquated, , with small boats, old technology and inadequate preservation methods based on the experiences of a previous generation of fishermen. He went on to note the lack of adequate fishing port facilities, and cited that all of these factors restrain fisheries in general and the tuna fishery in particular from achieving improvement.
He then outlined DECAFREP’s plans to improve the fishery by supporting fisherman in upgrading their boats, to work the fishermen’s associations to upgrade and/or build new fish port infrastructure in the three key tuna fishing provinces of Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh and to organize a fish auction system to enable fishermen to obtain the best possible price for their catch. He also outlined plans to make significant improvements in the management of the fishery, principally around data collection to support management.
Bill Holden of Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) spoke about the basics of the MSC certification process for those in the conference not familiar with it. He explained the steps of pre-assessment, links to Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) and the final assessment process a fishery must go through in order to be certified as sustainable by the MSC.
Keith Symington and Geoffrey Muldoon of WWFs Coral Triangle Global Initiative (CTGI) elaborated further on the MSC process and how it applied directly to the Vietnam hook and line tuna fisheries in the context of a Fishery Improvement type project, as well as describing WWF CTGIs regional programs that can support Fishery Improvement activities.
The current Sea Delight Circle Hook Distribution Better Fishing Practice Initiative (BFPI) was presented as a good example of a “Pre FIP” activity that can condition a fishery toward engaging in a full Fishery Improvement Project and prepare for MSC pre-assessment that would support that project.
The next speaker was Dr Tony Lewis, a consultant with considerable experience in global Tuna fisheries, including in Vietnam and the MSC process. Dr. Lewis was engaged prior to this meeting to prepare a “snapshot” assessment of the current state of the VN hook and line tuna fishery using the MSC Principles and Criteria as a baseline.
Tony presented the overview results of his initial assessment as well as identifying priority issues within Vietnam’s Tuna fisheries that would need to be addressed as part of an improvement project whose end goal was assessment for MSC certification.
Overall, Yellow-fin Tuna fishery stocks were in better condition than Big-eye Tuna stocks while some of the “red-flag areas” that fishery managers would need to work on under an improvement project were:
1. Compliance with WCPFC Resolution 2008-01 on reduction of effort targeting bigeye tuna
2. Improvement of overall fishery management in relation to harvest rules and target reference points
3. Increased emphasis on researchingfishery status (e.g. improved data collection) in order enable ecosystem modeling to be incorporated into all areas of fishery management.
Following these morning presentation, the floor was opened up to the participants to comment on these presentations and reflect on the meeting objective of consensus agreement on the need for implementing a FIP for Vietnam Yellow-fin and Big-eye tuna stocks.
DECAFREP’s Mr. Tuan took the opportunity to address the stakeholders again and wondered aloud if the Viet Nam tuna fishery really needed MSC certification at all or if it is just waste time and money that will have no effect on the market. Moreover, he argued that much of what was being proposed by the morning’s speakers was intended to be implemented by DECAFREP anyway and therefore he questioned whether the participants should support the meeting objectives. This made for a very lively debate and one that was moderated exceptionally well by Ms. Nguyen Dieu Thuy of WWF Vietnam.
In response to Mr Tuan’s comments, the processors asked numerous questions of the panel about the advantages of MSC and if customers would pay more for sustainable and/or certified products. A key point was made by Sea Delight’s Mr. Stephen Fisher who reminded all that regardless of whether or not higher prices were being paid for “certified” fish, the big buyers in the US and Europe were already demanding sustainable seafood and that is was time for everyone to “get on the bandwagon” or potentially lose market access.
Ms. Nguyen shared a story about the clam fishery in Ben Tre province, the first project in Southeast Asia to get MSC certification, where she noted that the price for Ben Tre sustainable clams was at least 5% over market and the same could happen for the tuna fishery.
Ms. Thuy of WWF Vietnam then continued to moderate a crucial discussion that continued for much of the afternoon with key inputs coming from VASAP, VINATUNA representatives as well as provincial government representatives and many industry participants in the room. It became apparent that overall there was strong support in the room for moving forward with an “improvement” project to support enhancement of Vietnam’s Tuna fisheries.
In the end a vote was called for and those who would support a FIP verified by an MSC pre-assessment process for the Vietnam long-line and hand-line Tuna fisheries. The motion for MSC pre-assessment and the implementation of a full Fishery Improvement Project was passed by a wide margin with participants also agreeing that WWF should coordinate next steps and the development of a roadmap going forward.
The next steps will see WWF develop a roadmap leading up to the pre-assessment process as well as immediate steps to implement the Plan of Action based on the pre-assessment results.
It is anticipated that the initial roadmap will developed over the coming weeks through a process of dialogue with key government and industry stakeholder after which it will be submitted to participants for consideration and for confirmation of budget for a pre-assessment and if budget requirements met, commencement of the pre-assessment.
Participants endorsing a formal FIP moving forward:
- Vietnam Department of Capture Fisheries and Protection (DECAFIREP) Binh Dinh Sub-DECAFIREP
- Khanh Hoa Sub-DECAFRIEP
- Phu Yen Sub-DECAFIREP
- Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) – Khanh Hoa, Phu Yen and Binh Dinh
- Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP)
- WWF Vietnam
- WWF Coral Triangle Programme
- Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
- Sea Delight
- Thinh Hung Co.
- Culimer BV
- Binca Seafood
- Hai Nam Co.
- Hai Vuong Co.Sustainable Seafood (VN)