Why needs a sustainable strategy to develop mariculture?
There is no doubt that Vietnam has a great potentiality for mariculture thanks to its advantages of having a beautifully long coastline, relatively large EEZ and diverse water bodies embracing lagoons, bays, offshore, etc.
Besides, as dwellers of a traditional agriculture, Vietnamese people also have lots of experience in cultivating and farming fish, especially for the freshwater and marine species like grouper, snappers, lobster, etc. Thus, there are currently about 50,000 households fish farms in the whole nation; and most of them are functioning in either nearshore/near island waters or lagoons, bays, to avoid the windstorms, rough seas and other extreme weathers.
Nonetheless, due to the inefficient management, a result from both incompetent authority and weak aquaculture community itself, there has been an emerging spontaneity of small-scale fish farms which rely on raw foods to feed the farmed-fish; that leads to poor incentives for innovation, as well as concerns for overcapacity, water pollution, diseases outbreak, deficit productivity and many other risks. In fact, such of those things have occurred very regularly in the high density farming operations, e.g. Xuan Dai and O Loan Lagoon (in Phu Yen) or Van Phong Bay (in Khanh Hoa). Moreover, the traditional farming systems are not enduring enough to resist extreme weathers, whilst the open waters of better fluid exchange, cleanliness and broader space for setting up mariculture farms still have not received enough consideration yet.
The globe’s fish catch has already reached its saturation due to over-fishing, depleted fish stocks and increasing conflicts with other economic sectors, which are not likely to be resolved overnight. As Vietnam is not an exception, the country is now facing with much of challenges in fishery industry; among those was the “yellow card” – a warning by European Community (EC) in late 2017 that Vietnam couldn’t meet their managerial requirements for sustainable fish catch. In addition, the increasing demands of other booming industries like husbandry, livestock, poultry and even shrimp farming have directly speed up the exploitation of marine fish for food ingredients, e.g. fish-meal.
Moreover, the world population is projected to increase by 1 billion in 2030, bringing about an extra-demand for tens of millions tons of seafood, while the fish catch appears not to be able to satisfy. In order to compensate this gap, mariculture is regarded world-wide as the main solution.
In Vietnam, being well-recognized of that trend, many active players have been working very hard to mobilize necessary resources to facilitate the industry. Since 2018, the Vietnam Seaculture Association (VSA) has coordinated with Directorate of Fisheries (D-FISH), Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to compose a national strategy for mariculture’s sustainable development in Vietnam, with the latest draft has been submitted and is waiting for Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to approve and promulgate.
In general, VSA and D-FISH’s proposal is basically in line with the Resolution No. 36 (36-NQ/TW, issued by the Politburo of Vietnamese Communist Party in 2018), the amended Fisheries Law (2017) and Decree 26/NĐ-CP, dated on March 8th 2019, which highlights the importance of sustainable development and aims to regulate the planning, operating and managing measurements in mariculture, as well as covers various terms e.g. accreditation, diseases control, environment protection, biodiversity preservation and the mitigation of ecosystem impacts.
National strategy for mariculture’s development: Key priorities and targets
There are 8 key priorities to achieve the ultimate goals:
Some specific targets by 2030:
How to successfully implement the strategy?
The objectives of this strategy are feasible and promising. However, it’s needed for synthesis solutions and collective actions from the industry itself and state managements, not just agriculture but also tourism, petroleum, maritime, energy (especially the renewable), defense forces and relevant stakeholders. Therefore, the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment (MONRE), local governments and appropriate authorities should have clear guidelines for conducting water carrying capacity assessment and marine spatial planning to establish a robust legal framework for mariculture development.
To apply good practices replacing for the inherent bad habits, and to transform nearshore small-scale fish farms into offshore mariculture centers, the whole industry needs a total upgrade and new investments. There are some suggestions such as: using HDPE cages instead of wooden cages/pens, pellet feed in substitute for raw fish to prevent water pollution, enhance food supply autonomy and improve economic efficiency. In addition, fish hatchery must be well prepared and managed to control the diseases outbreak and secure expected production.
In order to have a grown-up commodity industry, Vietnam needs to accumulate sufficient resources from finance, technology, infrastructure, manpower to knowledge in sustainable development and other social issues, e.g. labor and environmental responsibilities. Among those, human resource is in-arguably indispensable; hence, mariculture workers should receive high quality education and training to acquire the competence and necessary skills to fulfill their tasks, ensure the safety while working at sea, and survive in a very competitive industry. On the other hand, since a large-scale marine fish farms often costs quite a lot of money, so the easy access to financial loans or credits is very important to most of investors, particularly the traditional households fish farm owners who expect to expand and transform their facilities into industrial ones.
Finally, to realize the dream of a Vietnam’s thriving mariculture, it’s urgent for all stakeholders, includes the central and local governments, industries, marine farming entrepreneurs, farmers, academia and socio-professional organizations to search for a “common voice” in complicated matters regarding to laws, public security, environment, ecosystem, etc. As a matter of fact, it’s not only the “political will” but also drastic actions to complete strong legal frameworks, financial resources and commitments for leveraging the industry.