Vietnamese Pangasius
Aquaculture Improvement Project

Last Update: August 2014


Species
:

basa (Pangasius bocourti)
striped catfish (also called tra, swai, or sutchi) (Pangasionodon hypophthalmus)
 
Aquaculture Improvement Project (AIP) Region:
 
SFP has been working in Vietnam since 2007 to develop a better understanding of the current state of pangasius aquaculture, with an emphasis on potential environmental issues and providing recommendations for improvement.
 
In the beginning, SFP conducted scoping studies which led to the development of a more structured AIP program in 2013 on selected “zones” within the major producing provinces in the southern part of Vietnam – Can Tho, Vinh Long, and An Giang, where the local stakeholders were constructively engaged. 
 
Date Announced:  2010 
 
AIP Objectives:
 
The goal of the Vietnamese Pangasius AIP is to reduce or mitigate the potential cumulative and combined impacts of pangasius farming practices on a zonal level that can arise from poor water usage practices, over-density of farms, inappropriate zoning/siting, inefficient feed management, and insufficient coordination of disease incidences and treatments. The AIP also serves as a forum in which pangasius producers share lessons learned regarding better practices and can work together to press for improvements in other sectors that impact their operations, such as non-point source pollution from upstream agriculture or industry.
 

 

Source: De Silva, Sena S., and Nguyen T. Phuong 2011. Striped catfish farming in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam: a tumultuous path to a global success. Reviews in Aquaculture 3:45–73.

Contact

If you would like more information about the AIP or wish to support the AIP, please contact SFP.

Sustainability Information:

In 2010, the World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) members in six EU countries (Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark) moved Vietnamese pangasius to the Red List (product shouldn’t be used) from the Orange List (product can be considered for use) in WWF’s Consumer Seafood Guide 2010. The information was drawn from a survey assessing more than 100 fish species under WWF’s renewed criteria for sustainable development. Later in 2010, in the presence of the D-Fish (Directorate of Fisheries) for the Vietnamese Government, WWF International and WWF Vietnam, VINAFIS (Vietnam Fisheries Society), and VASEP (Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on sustainable development in the pangasius production sector. Since the development of this collaboration, progress has been recognized with the shift of Vietnamese pangasius from the Red List to a new “towards certification” category of WWF’s Consumer Seafood Guide in EU countries.
 
At present, several certification schemes are being used by the local producers (farms and processing plants). Some of these schemes are also recognized by international markets and eNGOs. Below are the current certification schemes available for pangasius in Vietnam:
 
Standard
 No. of certified farms
Remarks
 2012
 2013
 As of Jul 2014
ASC standard
 5
 26
 45
There are 5 other farms under ASC assessment.
Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP)
 10
 11
 7
These farms are all in the process of being certified as BAP 2-star production groups.
GLOBALG.A.P (GG)
 ~60
 ~60
 ~60
List of certified farms/ processing facilities is not public.
VietG.A.P
 0
 2
 6
This is the Vietnamese standard.  
The Vietnamese government is promoting VietG.A.P implementation in the aquaculture sector.
 
Monterey Bay Aquarium’s January 2014 Buyer’s Guide (MBA Seafood Watch - National Guide, Rev. 1.6.14) has ranked pangasius (ASC Certified Farmed), pangasius (Naturland Certified Farmed), and pangasius (Imported, Farmed) on the yellow list as good alternatives. These items are a buying option, but concerns remain about how they are farmed and the human impacts on the health of their habitat.
 
The Zonal Approach:
 
At present, several organizations are working in Vietnam targeting pangasius production. Most of these organizations/institutions are working individually with producers and helping them to acquire ASC certification (the Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH), World Wildlife Fund (Vietnam and International WWF), Netherlands Development Organization (SNV), and the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP)). Aside from financial assistance, these organizations are also providing some technical assistance on improving farming practices to work toward ASC certification. In addition, other private consultants/companies are working in the region and assisting individual producers to acquire certification for the farms. In particular, they are promoting this approach under the private-public partnership. However, a low level of attention is being given to the small-scale operators.
 
The primary difference between SFP and other organizations working in Vietnam is that the Vietnamese Pangasius AIP does not serve as a standard or certification process and does not intend to certify producers in the region. Rather, it will work with farmers within a designated zone to help them move toward a certifiable level of management practice in farming pangasius and protecting the immediate receiving water bodies. The AIP’s goal is to help or encourage the producers at a collective level to improve their farming practices, leading to increased production with fewer negative impacts on the environment. Certifying the farms to any third-party scheme will be the sole decision of the farm operators.
 
Rather than working individually with producers, the Vietnamese Pangasius AIP takes a zonal approach, in which the cumulative issues associated in pangasius farming will be addressed.
 
Specific Activities:
 
Current activities within the Vietnamese Pangasius AIP currently include:
 
1.    Recruiting producers within the identified “AIP zones” – SFP is in the process of recruiting producers and other stakeholders to be part of the AIP or supporters of its activities and programs.
 
2.    Developing an action plan for the producers from the AIP zones who will be the frontrunners or implementer of the different AIP activities.
 
3.    SFP, drawing from zonal management best practices, will continue building the awareness of the producers and other concerned stakeholders on sustainability issues related to pangasius farming and providing recommendations.
 
4.    Encouraging the concerned stakeholders to engage in a region-wide environmental impact assessment in order to understand the region’s current ecological situation.
 
5.    Networking with responsible producers and creating platforms for them to connect with international buyers and suppliers.
 
6.    Continuously monitoring the industry through site visits. This means that, rather than visiting and monitoring all farms in a given region, the program would visit a representative selection of farms distributed throughout the region in order to gain assurance that the activities of the AIP are being conducted.
 
7.    Capacity-building for important players in the industry, such as producers, retailers, buyers, and input suppliers.
 
8.    Collecting and disseminating better management practices (BMPs) that are applicable in the region through site visits, public reports, meetings, and workshops.

AIP Progress Update:
  
2007 – 2009
 
Water quality research with Can Tho University 
SFP implemented a project to monitor water effluents of pangasius farms in the region from 2007 to early 2009. The 11 farms monitored were located at a variety of distances from the Mekong River (ranging from close to the river to between tributaries). Our findings indicate that some farms in the region are exceeding both the national regulations and the existing international standard. We shared the results of this research with several stakeholders during meetings developing water quality requirements for the ASC/PAD standard. SFP also organized a workshop with producers and other interested organizations working on improving the pangasius industry and presented the results for verification and planning.
 
2010
 
Biodiversity, Impacts of Pangasius Farming in the Mekong Delta
In late 2010, SFP hired a consultant to review the potential biodiversity impact (green impact) of pangasius farming in the lower Mekong. The report indicated that key areas of biodiversity have been impacted by the intensification of agriculture and aquaculture. Critical wetland species are now threatened including otters, large waterbirds, and turtles. The further expansion of pangasius farming, if not regulated, could potentially worsen the impact on the remaining natural habitat.
 
Buyer Engagement
During this period, SFP continued to engage buyers and producers in order to understand the individual requirements of both sectors. SFP organized/facilitated a buyer tour to key pangasius producers.
 
PAD Steering Committee
SFP was on of the steering committee for the Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue and led the working committee on water pollution. During this period, the draft standard on water pollution was created on the basis of actual data from existing farms.
 
2011
 
Measuring Regional Environmental Impact Workshop 
SFP, in collaboration with ICAFIS (International Collaboration Center for Aquaculture and Fisheries Sustainability) and Can Tho University/College of Aquaculture and Fisheries (CTU/CAF), conducted a workshop in June 2011 to review several assessments conducted in the pangasius industry/aquaculture farms and to develop a checklist that can be used in assessing the environmental impacts of pangasius farms. This workshop included representatives from the environment departments of several local organizations in Vietnam. The output of the workshop is a set of recommendations to be used when planning to conduct an environmental regional assessment.
 
Pangasius farming standards benchmarking 
SFP led the implementation of the field-based comparison of the three main pangasius standards (ASC, GLOBALG.A.P, and GAA/BAP) in 11 farms located in the southern part of Vietnam (Can Tho, Vinh Long, An Giang, and Dong Thap). This exercise was completed in early August 2011. The report from this comparison was presented in several meetings in Vietnam and elsewhere in the region. The results of this comparison should be of particular use for those involved with standard-setting as well as seafood buyers and retailers.
 
The study identified 20 issues addressed by all the three schemes relating to the environment, sanitation, drug and chemical use, social concerns, and traceability. Categorizing the requirements for each scheme determined that the basic fundamental requirements for all three schemes relate to legal issues and the preventive measures taken to reduce the frequency of risk events. Risk avoidance (i.e., setting environmental thresholds) is the most critical level of requirements for an aquaculture standard.
Since several issues/requirements were identified as similar among the schemes, there is some potential for creating equivalencies or harmonization among the three standards. The pangasius industry is an export-targeted industry for which certification and/or standards are critical. Creating a harmonized or equivalency pangasius standard would assist not only the producers and small-scale farmers but also the consumers in determining practices that would help to ensure the sustainability of the pangasius industry.
 
2012
 
Potential impacts of dams in the Lower Mekong
SFP reviewed data/information on the potential impacts of upstream development to the pangasius industry in the Lower Mekong. The report describes potential impacts on feeds and water quality and availability in the Lower Mekong region and recommends that greater coordination over the management of water in the Mekong should be implemented. 

Upstream development could provide more consistent flow of water throughout the year, resulting in possible continuous operation of pangasius farms. However, this also might result in rapid intensification of both aquaculture and agriculture activities, with rapid increases in population and industry that pose a risk of deteriorating water quality.
 
Dam development could impact the migration route and spawning times of fish from the river being used for feed, thereby reducing their availability. Furthermore, alteration of water flow/current could impact the breeding behavior of other species.
 
Mapping key stakeholders in the pangasius industry
Key stakeholders in the pangasius industry in Vietnam were identified and mapped. Their responsibilities in relation to creating and implementing pangasius farming policies were also identified. The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and VASEP have critical roles in the creation of aquaculture regulations and the various Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) offices were in charge of the implementation. Producers, processors, and input providers were included in the consultative phase of developing regulations.
 
2013
 
Roundtable Discussion in Can Tho, Vietnam
In January 2013, SFP organized a roundtable discussion held at Can Tho University. It attracted the interest of approximately 60 participants, including processors, provincial aquaculture departments, scientific institutions, producers, suppliers, retailers, feed companies, chemical companies, certification bodies, and NGOs. The meeting addressed several issues relating to the sustainability of the pangasius industry and introduced the zonal management approach. As a result of this introduction, various participating groups volunteered to be part of the program, with at least 10 letters of commitment signed by the interested participants.
 
For further information of this discussion, please see Sustainable Pangasius Roundtable Discussion, Can Tho Vietnam, January 2013. 
 
AIP Zone Identification
After the meeting in January 2013, SFP conducted a trip to visit the potential AIP zones.
Three AIP zones have been selected: Vinh Long, Can Tho, and An Giang. The action plan for AIP zones focuses on:
 
1.    Researching the status of the three potential zones.
 
2.    Identifying and networking the key actors in the value chain, clarifying the roles and responsibilities of each, and establishing a memorandum of agreement.
3.    Performing a gap analysis of how a zonal management approach would work under the existing Vietnamese regulations.
 
4.    Performing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), establishing carrying capacity of the aquaculture zone, studying the epidemiology of the region, and determining best management practices.
 
5.    Developing an improvement plan to close the identified gaps and identify the indicators and collate metrics at farm and zone level to demonstrate progress to evaluate subsequent level of improvement.
 
6.    Implementing agreed improvement plans in the field.
 
7.    Ongoing monitoring of progress at the zonal scale.
 
8.    Taking corrective actions and closing the remaining gaps.
 
2014
 
January – March
SFP has been developing a closer working relationship with the Vietnamese Pangasius Association (VPA), in order to increase industry engagement and support the VPA to become the leading industry body for improving the sustainability of production. The VPA is working with key companies and the provinicial DARD offices to develop proposals for support of the leading areas of focus, including reducing disease risks and environmental impacts of pangasius production.
 
April – July
At the 2014 Brussels Seafood Expo in May, SFP organized the first Pangasius Supplier Roundtable meeting with buyers and retailers and representatives of some processors to show joint support for sustainability in the pangasius production sector. The meeting recognized the high percentage of the industry that is certified, but outlined the need for a coordinated approach to disease management given the very open nature of these farms, even when they are certified. A follow-up meeting is planned just before the GOAL meeting in Ho Chi Minh City in October.  
 
In the middle of May 2014, SFP organized a field visit for a major retail partner to the projects in the Mekong Delta, which showcased ongoing aquaculture improvement work in Vietnam and included a visit to the aquaculture improvement project (AIP) for Vietnamese pangasius.  Those attending got to see improvement work in action and were able to ask questions directly to the in-country team undertaking the day-to-day activities. In addition, a roundtable meeting was scheduled to coincide with the visit. This permitted the retail visitors to directly discuss pangasius sustainabliity with the industry (VPA, processors, producers) and regulators. In the meantime, the pangasius industry has committed to restructuring the industry to meet the sustainability goals.
 
In July 2014, SFP met with VPA, as well as Hung Vuong and Vinh Hoan (two of Vietnam’s biggest pangasius processors), in Can Tho City, Vietnam. The meeting focused on the need for developing an emergency disease plan given the open nature of the pangasius production ponds. While the two companies recognize this risk, it is clear that both they and the international supply chain need to develop the industry-wide emergency response plan in cooperation with the VPA, VASEP, and the government.
 
A Pangasius Supplier Roundtable meeting is planned for 1:30 pm on Monday, 6 October 2014, at the Sheraton Towers Hotel in Ho Chi Minh City. Please contact linh.nguyen@sustainablefish.org for more information.