In a recent stakeholder meeting VASEP Processors, WWF-Vietnam, and RIMF warned stakeholders on the state of the fishery, and that the lack of effective enforcement would definitely stall progress of the FIP and possibly digress the fishery. The meeting was hosted at the Department of Agricultural Resources and Development (DARD), and also attended by mini-plant owners. RIMF’s stock assessment reports show that the resource is overfished and that overfishing was happening. Despite efforts by DARD to enforce regulations such as minimum landing sizes, gear restrictions, closed seasons, and areas closures — fishing and trade practices had not changed since the establishment of the fishery regulations.
From it’s launch the Vietnam FIP had a strong foundation, inviting 3rd party consultants to help assess and plan the FIP, soliciting RIMF to conduct a comprehensive stock assessment, and forming a cross sectorial steering committee group (the Crab Advisory Council) to review fishery progress and make recommendations to fishery managers. Despite all this Vietnam will go through a similar learning curve as the rest of the region which will be implementation of a meaningful fishery management plan, and effective enforcement of fishery regulations so that crab stocks could rejuvenate to healthy levels. RIMF’s reports show that a reduction in fishing effort is needed. Capacity have always been an issue for Vietnam, as DARD, NFI, and WWF have all had funding constraints at one time or another to support the needs of the FIP Action Plan. Thus the available funding is allocated to priority activities such as developing a robust stock assessment database, and maintenance of a fishery steering committee. Now that those initiatives have been well established there’s a need to shift to communication campaigns in fishery communities and implementing a prototype fishery management plan.
Vietnam faces significant challenges because of competitive demand from domestic markets for blue swimmer crab that doesn’t have any sustainability requirements. DARD’s efforts to enforce regulations to the tens of thousands of fishers, their households, vendors, and middlemen, have amounted to 4 patrols, inspection of 48 boats at sea, and 2 surveys to check 30 middlemen and mini plants – needless to say it hasn’t been enough to dovetail bad practices in the fishery. There are also increasing concerns from the West on IUU issues that could outright ban those that can’t prove compliance national laws, or persecute those that are participating in supply chain that breaks the law. Where as if blue swimmer crab processors and their supply chains are not ahead of this curve, they could find themselves offsides.
It’s for these reasons that VASEP and WWF have combined forces with the 50in10 Foundation to help establish a co-management pilot site to address all these factors. The pilot site would prescribe a rights-based management system that gives exclusive fisher rights to persons from those communities. With a sense of ownership those persons help to police fishery regulations, and take care of the resource. So that when crab stocks do rebound, the benefit goes directly to the local community. Under the partnership, VASEP will also address supply chain compliance. VASEP and mini-plants, will assess the feasibility to conduct a traceability initiative, that seeks to keep actors in the supply chain on an even playing field. Which could prescribe a procurement policy that is audited, whereas actors that can’t prove compliance would suffer market barriers and penalties. Likewise, the potential reward actors in the supply chain for good practices that could come in the form of subsidies or social benefits. With the help of 50in10, VASEP and WWF will investigate the potential to include micro-finance options to help with the transition to a sustainable fishery.