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Tuesday, June 15, 2021

WWF agrees to remove Vietnam tra catfish from red list

Updated: 10:10’ - 27/12/2010

The World Wild Fund for Nature (WWF) has agreed to immediately remove Vietnam’s tra (pangasius) fish from the red list of its consumer guidance manual.

The announcement was made by the head of the WWF’s Global Seafood Program, Mark Powell, in a press conference in Hanoi on December 15.

His statement came after WWF representatives met with the Fisheries Directorate to explain why the fund had placed the fish on the red list in its consumer guidance manual for 2010-11.

Powell said world consumers could continue buying Vietnam’s tra fish while pledging that the WWF would cooperate with Vietnam to ensure sustainable production of the popular fish.

He said the fund was modifying its seafood guide advice to place tra on a list of fish which was moving towards certification.

“We do not intend to punish pangasius farmers and I think the brightest future for farmers is to be given certification as sustainable producers of pangasius for the world,” Powell said.

Fisheries Directorate Deputy Director Nguyen Anh Tuan said the WWF and Vietnamese partners would continue working to seek for agreements on sustainable aquaculture production in general and tra fish in particular.

“We have a few small disagreements but those are like disagreements within a family so that’s ok,” Powell said. “We have cooperated well in the past and we are pleased to continue cooperation well in the future.”

The meeting between the WWF and Vietnam followed the WWF’s red listing of the Vietnamese catfish, which immediately received strong oppositions across Vietnam.

Last month, the WWF downgraded Vietnam’s tra catfish from the yellow list to the red list in its updated 2010 Seafood Guides published in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway and Denmark.

Putting the fish on the red list means WWF advises buyers to look for an alternative seafood choice. For species on the yellow list, WWF recommends that consumers still buy, but choose as secondary to species on the green list.

The fund’s assessment of tra fish was opposed by all stakeholders in Vietnam.

There was no scientific evidence to justify naming tra fish on the WWF’s red list, Tuan said, pointing out that the WWF’s assessment of Vietnamese tra fish stocks was not comprehensive enough as it only focused on some areas where the fish was raised.

“The WWF’s information is insufficient as the fund used one sided and incorrect standards and scientific bases,” he said, stressing that the assessment would cause many difficulties for Vietnam’s tra raising industry and adversely affect global consumer trends. This would also affect international trade relations, he added.

The Fisheries Directorate received 19 criteria used by the WWF for assessing tra fish raising in Vietnam, which focused four major areas - production, ecological impact, feed and management. The study was “very poor in terms of documentation and statistics, which is far behind the level of assessment needed for a national aquatic product,” Tuan said.

The assessment was based on two documents which included one article published on Aquaculture in 2009 and the World Aquaculture Society’s appraisal report on the environmental impact of the aquaculture system, also published last year. Seven of the 19 questions were not sourced, he said.

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) said the incorrect assessment would hurt tra fish breeders, producers and consumers, as well as the WWF’s prestige.

VASEP Vice Chairman Nguyen Huu Dung said the Vietnamese government was committed to sustainable production of tra fish.

Over the past two years, Vietnamese administrators, researchers and fish breeders had worked closely with the WWF to draw up criteria for sustainable tra fish breeding. Therefore, the fund must be aware of the advances made in tra fish breeding in Vietnam, he said.

Most processing and exporting companies in the country had adopted a system to ensure the quality of products “from farm to fork.”

Vietnam’s tra fish was increasingly clean and had met international standards, Dung said, citing that 20 Vietnamese companies were operating 40 tra fish breeding farms under the stringent Global GAP (Good Agriculture Practices) standard for sustainable aquaculture.

He said the Government would support VASEP to ensure that all commercial tra fish breeding met the Global GAP standard during 2011-15.

Since 2003, farmers in the Mekong delta provinces of Dong Thap and An Giang and Can Tho city, the biggest tra fish suppliers for seafood processors, have complied strictly with the Global GAP or SQF 1000 standards.

The Global GAP standard requires seafood to be produced in a manner that reduces detrimental environmental impacts including the use of chemicals. It also ensures a responsible approach to worker health, safety and welfare.

The SQF 1000 standard requires clean ponds, the fish fry to be free of antibiotics, and the fish feed to be hygienic and free of banned antibiotics. It also requires that the fish has been cared for with strict disease protection measures and that details of all farming processes are recorded and maintained.

In Dong Thap province, nine out of 11 companies that have the capacity to produce seafood for export have filed applications to acquire the Global GAP certification or have been awarded the certification by Bureau Veritas.

Four of them received the Global GAP certification for their production process this year, and the remaining five will file their applications in early 2011.

“If the companies are in the process of filing their applications, it means that they have already started raising fish in compliance with the standard,” said Trinh Thi Be Ba, deputy head of the Aquaculture Division under the Dong Thap Department of Fisheries.

The nine companies have their own farming areas, and the total area for raising under the Global GAP standard is 308.4 acres.

These companies also had cooperated with local farmers by providing them with quality fry, better breeding techniques and harvesting practices, Ba said.

Breeding tra fish according to the Global GAP standard has helped the province produce exports that fetch prices 10-20% higher, according to Le Hoang Vu, acting director of the Dong Thap Department of Fisheries.

An Giang Province has its own model - the An Giang Pure Pangasius Union (APPU) - to produce tra fish under the SQF 1000 or Global GAP standard. Under the model, many groups of farmers in the same geographical territory breed the fish for 17 exporters in the province.

Tran Anh Dung, director of the An Giang Department of Fisheries, said four leading export companies have been most successful with this model. They have 155 ha of fish farms with an annual capacity of 130,000 tons, accounting for nearly 50% of total production in the province.

Tra is a freshwater fish which provides cheap, nutritious and safe food to consumers across the world. With an annual output of 1.5 million tons, Vietnam’s accounts for 1% of the world aquatic output and supplies almost 95% of commercial tra fish to the world market.

The country exported more than 538,000 tons of the fish, worth USD 1.1 billion, to more than 120 countries in the first 10 months of this year. It is expected to earn some USD 1.4 billion from tra fish exports this year. European buyers alone consume 184,000 tons a year, accounting for 36% of the country’s total exports. 

According to VASEP, the high quality, value and reasonable price of tra fish had made it popular with European consumers despite numerous barriers and campaigns to discourage buyers.(VLLF/VNS)-

VNL_KH1 

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