Vietnam turns towards the supply chain to address enforcement
In a recent meeting hosted by VASEP Processors, WWF-Vietnam, the Department of Agricultural Resources and Development (DARD), and also attended by mini-plant owners — it was apparent that the fishery was suffering (20% above MSY), and despite some enforcement efforts by DARD this simply wasn’t enough to address systemic issues in the fishery that prohibit actors in the supply-chain to adhere to good practices and fishery regulations. As a result, the FIP will look towards localized co-management initiatives and supply chain compliance tools to address enforcement deficiencies, issues that have to do with open access, and the incentive structure for good practices.
The Vietnam FIP is the first Comprehensive blue swimmer crab FIP in the region, they have a robust stock assessment regime, and have established a cross-sectorial steering committee, The Crab Advisory Council (CAC), to develop and implement best practices that seek to address sustainability standards such as the MSC. Stock assessments show that the fishery is over-fished by as much as 20% above MSY, in turn the CAC has developed a suite of harvest strategies and control rules to ensure crab populations maintain productive. However, the recommendations and fishery regulations have not been translated into practice at the fisher, middleman, and mini-plant levels. This in part-due to the fact that the government lack capacity to enforce fishery regulations, and there is also domestic demand for crab that does not have any sustainability requirements. Subsistence fishers are also reliant on money-lenders or middle-men to go out fishing and help pay for the living costs, paying back debt is also dependent on their daily catch. It proves a significant challenge when a fishery needs to reduce fishing effort in order to rebuild healthy crab stocks, where there is a lack of economic incentive for good practices, and there is a lack of top-down clout to enforce fishery regulations.
Solutions forward entail a pilot site that will empower local fishers to enforce fishery regulations and steward the resource. The trade-off being that these fishers are the exclusive tenants of the particular area, meaning outside fishers will not be able to exploit the resource, so when crab stocks rebound the benefit go to these fishers. The other solution going forward will be along the lines of compliance in the supply chain. This could be in the form of an audited chain of custody, such as a Control Document system, or a rewards program that seeks to link subsidies to good practices during the time of transition. NFICC and 50in10 will look to solicit the technical expertise from the Future of Fish to conduct research to explore what these tools may look like given the context of the fishery, bring in new technology, and also look to make linkages to the financial sector for micro-financing options.