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Mar. 12, 2008

Vietnam _ Working toward the Production of Safe and High-Quality Aquaculture Foods

Current Situation of Vietnam Aquaculture

Status of Aquaculture

Vietnam is one of the top aquaculture producers in the world (FAO, 2004). It has a large potential for aquaculture development with a total area of water-surface estimated above 1.7 million ha, of which nearly 1 million ha have just been now exploited for aquaculture. During the last decade, since 1999, more than 377,000 ha of land have been converted into aquaculture ponds, including 346,694 ha of low yield rice fields, 2,170 ha of salt pans and other uses due to the change of policies of government on the land uses. The Resolution issued by the Vietnamese Government in 2000 allowed farmers to shift the low production rice field into shrimp ponds. Consequently, the area and production of aquaculture have steadily increased for the last 10 years (Table 1), especially as the aquaculture products in Vietnam can be exported to various foreign markets such as United States, European Union (EU) countries, and Japan.

The figures show a rapid aquaculture development both in area and production in terms of annual growth. Aquaculture production is mainly coming from freshwater aquaculture (about 55 percent), especially the aquaculture industry of river-catfish while the export value is mainly coming from marine and brackish water aquaculture, especially the shrimp farming industry due to their very high value (Table 2).

Geographically, the largest production of aquaculture mainly comes from the Mekong Delta (63-69 percent of total production, Table 3). It proves the important role of the Mekong Delta in contributing to the fisheries value of the country's economy.

During 1995-2005, the structure of culture species was also largely changed to market orientation. Besides the species which have been reared for exporting such as shrimp, catfish, lobster, tilapia, grouper, mud crab or indigenous fish for domestic consumption, some other aquatic animals such as soft shell turtle, frog, and snails have also been cultured.

From Table 4, the data show that so far, black tiger shrimp and catfish are still the main aquaculture products in Vietnam due to their high-export value to various foreign markets.

Contribution of Aquaculture to GDP

Based on the value of aquaculture and capture fisheries described in Table 5, we can see that the value of aquaculture steadily increased from 0.2 percent of total Gross Domestic Production (GDP) in 1996 to 5.78 percent in 2005, whereas the contribution of captured fisheries value to the country's GDP decreased from 5 to 4 percent for the last 10 years. Therefore, the production of aquaculture has played an important role in the increase of export value of the fisheries sector, annually from US$ 697 million in 1996 to US$2,650 million in 2005 (Table 6).

Major Aquaculture Production

Among various fish and shrimp species which are being raised now in Vietnam, two key species giving the largest production as well as export value are black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) in the brackish water and river catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) in fresh water. Their production accounts for approximately 50 percent of the total production of aquaculture in Vietnam.

Brackish Water Shrimp

Black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) is a key species in the shrimp farming industry and is mainly used in coastal provinces. Diversified approaches are applied in shrimp farming including earthen-pond shrimp farming, rice-shrimp farming, mangrove-shrimp farming, etc. with various levels of intensive, semi-intensive, improved extensive and extensive farming. Brackish shrimp farming area was 210,448 ha in 1999; 283,610 ha in 2000; 448,996 ha in 2001; 489,475 ha in 2002; 555,593 ha in 2003; 592,805 ha in 2004; and 604,479 ha in 2005 with a yearly average increase of 31.2 percent. Shrimp farming industry is mainly practiced in the Mekong River Delta accounting for 535,145 ha in 2005 in total shrimp farming area of 604,479 ha of the country. Parallel with an increasing shrimp farming area is an increase in shrimp production that accounted for 63,664 tons in 1999 and 324,680 tons in 2005 of which major production (around 290,000 tons) comes from black tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon).

Catfish Culture

The catfish (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) has been traditionally cultured in the Mekong Delta in Vietnam since the 1950s in small scale, mainly for subsistence. The farmers collected the fish larvae from the Mekong River during early flood season. The larvae were nursed in small ponds and provided to local farmers to stock in the integrated farming system: ponds/channels _ husbandry _ garden. The fish was consumed by households or sold to local markets. However, in the 1990s, the catfish culture developed quickly as commercial products because:

          Catfish products could be exported to foreign markets such as United States, Australia, Europe, Japan and China recently.
The success in induced reproduction of catfish. For the time being, all the fingerlings come from the hatcheries and farmers can actively stock fingerlings in the earlier or later time to reduce pressure of massive harvest.
The culture techniques: feed, water management, pond design have been improved with high intensification. The yields can reach 350-400 tons per hectare per crop in pond or 100-150 kg/m3 in cages. Additionally, the farmers have shifted from culture of catfish in cages in the rivers to pond systems producing higher quality ("white color") of fish product, which meets the requirement for export markets.

During the last five years, catfish production has increased from 86,700 tons in 1999 to 375,500 tons in 2005 and catfish is the key species cultured in freshwater area for export to other countries. However, so far the fish has been only raised in the Mekong Delta where the water conditions, feed , seed are relevant and available.

Government Organizations and Support Service for Aquaculture

In Vietnam, the Ministry of Fisheries (MoFi) is responsible for the management and development of national fisheries, in which aquaculture is included. Concretely, the Department of Aquaculture of MoFi is the key organization for setting up policies, strategies and planning for aquaculture development, whereas the National Fisheries Extension Center is the national organization responsible for aquaculture extension services and implementation of national projects of aquaculture technology transfer.

At the local level, there are Fisheries Extension Centers, which belong to the Provincial Department of Fisheries (coastal provinces) or Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (inland provinces). These provincial Extension Centers coordinate with a network of extension officers (district level) and extension workers/farmers (village level) for support services for transfer of aquaculture technologies to farmers.

Legal Framework for Aquaculture

In order to exploit the potential of aquaculture in Vietnam to meet requirements for socioeconomic development of the country, basic documents have been promulgated by the government as a legal framework for aquaculture:

     a.     Decision No. 224/1999/QÐ _ TTg dated Aug. 12, 1999 by the Prime Minister for approval of the Plan of Aquaculture Development from 1999-2010 with the objective: To ensure food security for the people and supply fisheries materials for export. In which, the following outputs must be achieved by the year 2010:
1) Production of 2 million tons of fish and other aquatic animals.
2) Export value from aquaculture products: US$2.5 billion.
3) Provide employment opportunities to 2 million people.
b. Resolution No. 09/2000/NQ-CP dated June 15, 2000 on policy of restructure of land uses in which the Government allows farmers to change some areas of low production rice fields, salt pans and some other cultivated land into aquaculture.
c. Fisheries Law was issued by Vietnamese National Assembly on Nov. 26, 2003, in which the aquaculture activities are stipulated by articles 23-26 of Chapter IV.
d. Decision No. 10/2006/QÐ-TTg dated Jan. 11, 2006 by the Prime Minister for approval of the Master Plan for Fisheries Development to year 2010 and the Vision 2020, in which the objectives of the plan are: The production of aquaculture in 2010 will be about 2 million tons, including 0.98 million tons from fresh water aquaculture and 1.02 million tons marine and brackishwater aquaculture; 1.1-1.4 million ha of water bodies will be exploited for aquaculture activities, of which there are 0.6 million ha of freshwater area and 0.7 million ha of brackishwater and marine areas. The details of the plan for aquaculture development until 2010 by MoFi are described in Table

In order to achieve the above outputs, the following strategies for aquaculture development have been set up by MoFi:

          The black tiger shrimp is still the main species for aquaculture for the large brackishwater area.
The development of aquaculture must be based on the overall regional and local planning. (In some provinces, the government and local farmers just want to increase production every year without considering a lot of risks because of lack of facilities and necessary conditions).
Increase in the production of aquaculture must be directed to the improvement of yields and product quality; introduction of high-value species to farming and assurance of food safety and low cost.
Development of various farming systems that correspond to specific ecological zones and produce organic culture products targeting foreign markets.

Improved Technologies and Management Practices to Produce Safe and High-Quality Aquaculture Foods

The sustainable development of aquaculture to provide safe and high-quality aquaculture foods is towards the trend of global aquaculture due to major issues concerning international trade in fish/shrimp and other aquatic products that have been prominent in recent years. It include changes in quality and safety control measures in the importing countries; the introduction of new labeling requirements and the concept of traceability in major markets in developed countries. Environment-friendly aquaculture and organic aquaculture together with good management practices have therefore been raised in several countries.

The government has realized the hazards in parallel with the intensification of aquaculture. Therefore, as the area of intensive farming systems expands, the hazards of water pollution, outbreak of diseases, food quality and safety also increases. It is important that the policy makers and farmers must be aware of the above issues in order to manage them. With the aim to closely manage food safety for sustainable development in aquaculture, the authorities must have regulations and control system to manage quality of seeds, rearing procedure, chemicals/antibiotics utilized in aquaculture.

The MoFi has considered the introduction of organic culture, the CoC , GAP, BAP, into aquaculture as the most appropriate approach for sustainable development of aquaculture in Vietnam with conditions for food safety and traceability of food products.

The following aquaculture technologies have been introduced in Vietnam to meet requirements of food quality and safety control of the international as well as domestic markets.

Organic Aquaculture

a) Organic shrimp farming in Vietnam

Organic aquaculture was first introduced to Vietnam in 1999 and was determined by the Vietnamese government as one of the strategic direction for the development of sustainable and responsible aquaculture. The Swiss Import Promotion Program (SIPPO), in cooperation with the Fisheries Department of Ca Mau province established the first organic farming system of tiger shrimp in Ca Mau. The SIPPO & MOFI project (2003-2006) has the overall objective of securing the livelihood of small producers of shrimp and protecting the environment by implementing standards for organic aquaculture within an extensive farming system.

Specific objectives:

     1)     To master the artificial reproduction of the tiger shrimp within  the controlled environment;
2) To set up a broodstock production system on an experimental scale and to implement technology transfer of this to allow Vietnamese producers to assure their future;
3) To introduce organic certification of the pilot hatcheries in Ca Mau province and thus, to supply the organic shrimp farms with the appropriate post larvae.

The farms were certified by Naturland, the German organic certification body. One of the requirements for the farming system is that 70 percent of the total farm area must be covered with mangrove. The first batch of organic shrimp was exported to Europe in 2002 with a price 20-percent higher than the market prices.

Various criteria were introduced in the setting up of organic forestry-shrimp farming model (Dung, 2004):

     1)     Site selection and protection of mangrove: The mangrove forest must be maintained on at least 70 percent of the total farm area.
2) Protection of ecosystems in the farm and surroundings: Destruction or damage to the mangrove forest is not permitted. The water quality shall be monitored.
3) Only native species should be stocked: Post-larvae of black tiger shrimp are stocked in ponds and passive seeding of the ponds with the larvae of native species entering the pond naturally with tidal flow is permitted.
4) Breeding (experimental and nursery ponds): Reproduction should be in the most natural way possible. Measures for increased productivity of the rearing ponds are recommended.
5) Pond design and water quality: Pond design should be adequate for efficient operation. Heating or aeration of ponds is not allowed.
6) Tidal flow must be used for water exchange.
7) Fertilization of grow-out ponds: The use of organic wastes as raw material or compost produced by the farm itself is authorized.
8) Feeding in ponds: The use of external feed is not allowed (except for on-farm organic wastes).
9) Stocking density of ponds: Actual seeding density of the ponds is about 2 post larvae/ sq m.
10) Safeguarding health and hygiene in ponds: Any disease-preventive measures should rely on the use of probiotic microorganism. Antibiotics and chemotherapeutics are not permitted.
11) Harvesting and processing: Care must be taken during harvesting to maintain shrimp quality, and processing of the shrimp must be according to organic principles.
12) Social aspects: The livelihood and welfare of the farmers and their families must be looked after.

The farmers rear Penaeus monodon, Metapenaeus ensis, Metapenaeus lysianassa and Penaeus indicus. Farming methods are very extensive and stocking density very low (2-3 shrimps/sq m). Only P. monodon post larvae are bought from hatcheries; other species come naturally from the wild. The shrimp nourish themselves on natural food produced by mangrove forest and no additional feeding is done. No chemical fertilizer is used by the farmers. The shrimps are produced according to traditional systems using tides to seed and harvest the ponds. Every 15 days, ponds are emptied during low tide, and filled and seeded with wild shrimp post larvae during the high tide. During the recruitment, the sluice gate is opened to let the shrimp post larvae in. A net is placed during recruitment at the front of the gate to avoid predators coming in and at the same time to catch wild fishes and wild shrimps. At low tide, a net is placed with its opening facing the ponds to harvest the biggest farmed shrimps. Harvest and seeding occur for three to five days during spring tide and the cycle is repeated throughout the year. The productivity of the ponds is low (150-200 kg/ha/yr), assuring though an excellent quality of product and minimal impact on the environment. Around 700 farms have been reported in 2004 that have been successfully inspected by IMO and re-certified by Bio Suisse and all the products was exported to Switzerland (Olivier 2004).

B) Organic River Catfish (Pangasianodon Hypophthalmus):

Organic or ecological river catfish has been practiced in pens by AFASCO Co. in An Giang province in cooperation with BinCa Seafood Co. in Germany. This is done by penning off a large area and producing organic river-catfish in the confined area with natural thorough flow. Fish fries for organic river catfish culture must be free from antibiotic residue and pass the nursing period of 40-60 days before stocking for grow-out with stocking density of 10 fish/m3. Feeds include 50 percent rice bran, 25 percent soybean, and 25 percent fish meal (organic certified materials). The culture procedure and requirements are strictly inspected by IMO (Institute for Market Ecology) to get certificates from Naturland Organization in Germany for organic products. This activity is predicted to have very good future prospects. A total of 300 tons of organic catfish was produced in 2005 and exported to Binca SeaFood Co. and an amount of 1,600 tons of organic catfish will be produced in 2006. However, organic river culture of catfish in Vietnam still encounters the following difficulties:

     1)     Materials for feed in compliance with organic criteria such as  rice bran (produced from local rice race without chemical utilization), soybean cake (residue) and fish meal are not enough or available in Vietnam. Most of them  are now imported from other countries.
2) Pellet feed for organic culture has not been produced by suppliers due to small-scale farming.

C) Other Organically Farmed Species

The aquaculture of some species practiced in natural way in which the animals utilize natural foods is also considered as organic aquaculture. One of the new species that is being cultured organically is the freshwater prawn (Macrobrachium rosenbergii). The culture of this species began in An Giang province which is subjected to flooding every year. The flooding period can be exploited to farm the freshwater prawn and other fish species and the floods can bring benefits to the farmers, instead of just causing them losses. The seeds need to be produced earlier before the flooding season and reared in a secure place. During the flooding season they can be placed in suitable facility for grow-out.

Another organic farming activity is that of rice-shrimp culture. This takes place in Soc Trang, Ca Mau, Bac Lieu, Kien Giang and some other provinces in the Mekong Delta; These provinces have distinct dry and rainy seasons. During dry season, seawater penetrates up the delta, allowing shrimp farming to be carried out. On the other hand, during rainy season when the water is fresh, rice can be cultivated. Thus, we have both organic shrimp and rice.

Environment-Friendly Aquaculture

          Extensive and improved extensive shrimp farming occupies 90 percent of the total shrimp farming area. Extensive shrimp farming in very large ponds of up to hundreds of hectares with low-stocking density, less artificial feed and without chemical treatments, etc. is considered as environment-friendly aquaculture that reduces the impact on the environment and also produces better quality shrimp.
Rice-fish culture has also become a traditional activity of the farmers in the Mekong River Delta, especially in the unflooded or controlled flooding areas (with water depth of 0.5-1.0 m during flooding season). The local species such as silver barb (Barboides gonionotus), skin gouramy (Trichigaster pectoralis), or common carp (Cyprinus carpio), Indian carp are suitable species with best performance in rice fields. A positive impact on the rice field bed and soil fertility is also observed with the grazing and scavenging activities of the fish which reduced costs of weeding as well as for fertilizing during the next crop.
The culture of mud-crab in mangrove farming system: Stocking density for grow-out is very low, estimated at around 0.5 to 1 juvenile per sq m. Partial harvest of commercial crab at a size of above 200g/crab can be commenced after 80-90 days since stocked. It takes two months to finish the harvest. The production of the farming system ranged from 500 to 1,311 kg/ha/crop with survival rate obtained at 29-68 percent.

Improved Management Practices

Parallel with the movement of aquaculture technologies towards producing safe and high-quality aquaculture foods, the training and transfer of farm management practices to the farmers have also been implemented via governmental and foreign-supported projects. Good Aquaculture Practices (GAP), Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), Code of Conduct (CoC) (or Best Management Practices-BMP) (Table 8) — all these management practices are considered as improved management practices which have been transferred to the farmers in several coastal provinces, especially to the people involved in shrimp farming and river-catfish culture. Different standards are also determined for these management practices to distinguish different quality products and market requirements.

The MoFi has put a lot of efforts in transferring these management practices to the farmers to ensure the Vietnam aquaculture foods can enter the world markets such as Japan, United States and Europe.

Co-management is considered as the most appropriate approach for improvement of management of the aquaculture area for reducing risks in terms of diseases and environmental impacts. Within the framework of MRC project (2003-2005), co-management in shrimp culture through the shrimp farmer club in Soc Trang province was set up with the following activities:

          To provide farmers with water quality kit and train them how to measure and manage water quality of the shrimp ponds.
To organize training courses on health management of shrimp ponds.
To improve the awareness of farmers of fisheries regulations related to environment protection, food safety, etc.
To help farmers' club to set up the action plan for their activities and monthly monitoring.

The project has made the progress in strengthening the participatory preparation and implementation of management plan and management capacity of local authorities and farmers. As outputs, the awareness of local farmers about the risks of utilization of chemicals on food safety and environment, and knowledge on "clean" aquaculture product were enhanced.

In 2003, the MoFi launched a case study project "Application of GAP in black tiger shrimp culture at an area of 40 ha in Ben Tre province" funded by the US Embassy in Ha Noi and carried out by the National Fisheries Quality Assurance and Veterinary Directorate (NAFIQUAVED). In 2004, based on initial outputs of the above project, the MoFi started another project " Application of GAP for sustainable development of shrimp culture in Vietnam" (2004-2006) which was also implemented by NAFIQUAVED with the objectives: (1) to supply cultured shrimp materials compatible with food safety requirement of international as well as domestic markets; (2) to reduce risks of shrimp disease outbreaks and environmental pollution, and to increase benefit for sustainability of black tiger shrimp culture in Vietnam.

In the framework of the project, five areas of intensive and semi-intensive shrimp culture in different ecological regions from the north to the south of the country have been selected for introduction of GAP, in which the following issues have been monitored and analyzed:

     -     Pathogens of shrimp diseases and their transmissions.
- The hazards of chemicals, antibiotics and organic pollution on the environment.
- Control of risks from water supply, feed, utilization of chemicals and antibiotics to shrimp food quality.
- Control the quality of seed, water quality and practices of integrated pond management.
- Introduction of co-management with the participation of local farmers through the management body of the shrimp culture areas or GAP Management Group for Shrimp Culture Enterprise in conformation to the regulations on environment protection, GAP guidelines, and in sharing experience and information on shrimp culture.

After two years of implementation, it is realized that the awareness and understanding of farmers about GAP and application of GAP have increased in the project areas as shown by the output. The utilization of chemicals and antibiotics reduced from 30-60 percent of the former quantities by farmers and enterprise owners and there were new disease outbreak and high quality of shrimp products. Presently, all the outputs of the project are being documented by the government for further extension to other regions.

In connection with catfish culture, in 2002, the SQF 1000CM was introduced to the An Giang province where the largest quantity of catfish culture have been produced. With the support from SGS Co., local authorities started this program that aims to produce catfish products in compliance with requirements of food safety for export, as well as domestic consumption. The program includes 10 steps applied at the catfish culture clubs. In 2005, 19 catfish farms of AGIFISH Co. were certified to meet the SQF1000CM for their production. And in 2006, the Provincial Breeding Center for Aquaculture and its seven satellite hatcheries were also certified for SQF 1000 CM in An Giang.

Emerging Needs and Future Directions

Globalization and further liberalization of the world fish trade, while offering many benefits and opportunities, also present new safety and quality challenges. Emerging needs need to be set up to keep the aquaculture sustainable and the aquaculture foods acceptable by the world markets. Fish safety regulators need to apply a host of control measures, from mandating the use of the Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system to increasing testing, with varying degrees of success. Improved risk-based scientific tools must be adopted so that the fish safety standards reflect the most current and effective scientific methods available to protect public health.

Emerging aquaculture regulations is the obligation to acquire permits or licenses to establish a farm. These give farmers the right to establish and operate aquaculture facilities, and at the same time allow governments to monitor the environmental sustainable development of aquaculture, and to impose conditions that compel farms to be operated toward this end.

Farmers must be encouraged to farm organic and environment-friendly aquaculture. In addition to that, GAP, CoC, and PMB must be applied in intensive aquaculture to ensure that aquaculture foods coming from all farming technologies are safe and of high quality that can be accepted by the world market.

Also at the national level, aquaculture policies should be established to stimulate development. Government should intervene at the macro level by designating aquaculture as priority area in national economic agendas, defending goals and targets and establishing guiding strategies to achieve them. Government should also facilitate reasonable access to credit, provide fiscal incentive and remove instructional constrains (e.g., by establishing effective aquaculture administrative frameworks). At the micro or farm level, government has to intervene with start-up policies such as financing research, providing stocking materials and extension and advisory services, and in some instances providing loans. Government also needs to encourage the aquaculture sector through market promotion policies, the development of new value-added products and the regulation of aquatic food safety. In addition to regulations relating to chemicals, antibiotics and feed used in aquaculture, special regulations also need to be issued on the processing and packaging of aquaculture products to prevent health hazards and safeguard consumers.

In order to assure the sustainable development of aquaculture, the co-management is considered as the most appropriate approach for the management of aquaculture areas with conditions for producing safe and high-quality aquaculture foods.


Index of Images

  • Figure 1 Area and aquaculture production in Vietnam, 1991-2005

    Figure 1 Area and aquaculture production in Vietnam, 1991-2005

  • Figure 2 Production of aquaculture and capture fisheries in Vietnam, 1991-2005.

    Figure 2 Production of aquaculture and capture fisheries in Vietnam, 1991-2005.

  • Figure 3 Area and production of shrimp culture inVietnam in 2000 - 2005.

    Figure 3 Area and production of shrimp culture inVietnam in 2000 - 2005.

  • Figure 4 Catfish culture production in Vietnam.

    Figure 4 Catfish culture production in Vietnam.

  • Table 1 The Area and Production of Aquaculture in Vietnam, 1999_2005

    Table 1 The Area and Production of Aquaculture in Vietnam, 1999_2005

  • Table 2 Aquaculture Production Classified by Groups (Ministry of Fishery 2006)

    Table 2 Aquaculture Production Classified by Groups (Ministry of Fishery 2006)

  • Table 3 The Production of Aquaculture by Geographical Regions of the Country (in %)

    Table 3 The Production of Aquaculture by Geographical Regions of the Country (in %)

  • Table 4 Area and Production of Main Species of Aquaculture (in 2005)

    Table 4 Area and Production of Main Species of Aquaculture (in 2005)

  • Table 5 The Value of Aquaculture in the Country's Gross Domestic Production

    Table 5 The Value of Aquaculture in the Country's Gross Domestic Production

  • Table 6 Export Value of Fisheries Products

    Table 6 Export Value of Fisheries Products

  • Table 7 Details of the Plan for Aquaculture Development Until 2010 by the Mofi

    Table 7 Details of the Plan for Aquaculture Development Until 2010 by the Mofi

  • Table 8 Criteria for Different Safe and High Quality Aquaculture Foods <BR>

    Table 8 Criteria for Different Safe and High Quality Aquaculture Foods <BR>

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