FISHING, SHRIMP AND FISH AND SHRIMP FARMING IN VIETNAM

FISHING IN VIETNAM

Fish have traditionally been the main source of protein in Vietnam and fishing has traditionally been an important livelyhood for many who live on the coast, rivers and lakes. Many rural people have fish ponds. Many coastal villages specialize in fishing.

Vietnam’s fishing industry, which has abundant resources given the country’s long coastline and extensive network of rivers and lakes, has experienced moderate growth overall. In 2003 the total catch was about 2.6 million tons. However, seafood exports expanded fourfold from 1990 to 2002 to more than US$2 billion, driven in part by shrimp farms in the South and "catfish," which are a different species from their American counterpart but are marketed in the United States under the same name. By concentrating on the U.S. market for the sale of vast quantities of shrimp and catfish, Vietnam triggered antidumping complaints by the United States, which imposed tariffs in the case of catfish and is considering doing the same for shrimp. In 2005 the seafood industry began to focus on domestic demand to compensate for declining exports. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Vietnam's fisheries are modest, even though the country's lengthy coast provides it with a disproportionately large offshore economic zone for its size. In the 1980s, Vietnam claimed a 1-million-square- kilometer offshore economic zone and an annual catch of 1.3 to 1.4 million tons. More than half the fish caught, however, were classified as being of low-quality. Schools of fish reportedly were small and widely dispersed. *

Fish stocks are decreasing. In some places there are only half as many fishing boats as their used to be. Piracy and illegal fishing are a problem in Vietnamese waters (See Pirates). Thai fishermen have been shot dead by Vietnamese maritime authorities for fishing in Vietnamese waters. See China.

In October 2008, 10 Vietnamese fishermen died when their boat was hit by another vessel and sank.

See Storms, Typhoons

Aquaculture in Vietnam

In 2007, Julia Watson of Press International wrote: “Traveling south towards Hue from Halong Bay, where the limestone islands soar out of the sea like a vampire's teeth, the coastal plain is dotted with little huts on stilts. During low tide, they stand on dry land. At high tide they're surrounded by water. These are domestic versions of the fish farm, designed to produce enough catfish, squid and the area's ubiquitous shrimp to feed the family. Nets hang beneath the platforms. More wrap round the stilts; cages in string hold stocks. [Source: Julia Watson, United Press International, May 14, 2007 ***]

“Vietnam's population is dependent upon agriculture and fisheries. But on the larger scale, industrial fish farming is threatening Vietnam's coral reefs. The Environmental Justice Foundation estimates that 90 percent of Vietnamese coral reefs are disturbingly under threat through the destruction of over 80 percent of Vietnam's mangrove forests. A British advocacy group, EFS endeavors to support local people's rights while defending the environment. Mangroves produce their own remarkable ecosystem. Able to survive in salty water, they protect the coast from flooding and storm damage and support a multiplicity of wildlife. They can also filter many pollutants from inland waters before they drain into the ocean. But they are being cut down to provide land for shrimp farm ponds. ***

“Yet successful aquaculture creates jobs in rural areas where poverty is high -- so long as the farmers are applying good sustainable fish practices that don't end up destroying the long term health of the environment or their shrimp ponds. ***

Vietnam is home to a large number of clam and scallop farms. There are problems with scallop diseases at some of the farms.

Basa Catfish and Vietnamese Fish Farms

Vietnamese fish farms are a major producer of catfish. These are mostly basa fish ( Pangasius bocourti), a type of catfish in the family Pangasiidae. Basa are native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam and Chao Phraya basin in Thailand. These fish are important food fish with an international market. They are often labeled in North America and Australia as "basa fish" or "bocourti". In the UK, the species is known mainly as "river cobbler", with "basa" also being used on occasion. In Europe, these fish are commonly marketed as "pangasius" or "panga". They are sometimes categorized as a shark catfish. [Source: Wikipedia +]

In 2007, Vietnam earned US$1 billion from exporting a record 400,000 tonnes of catfish fillet, an increase of 34.4 percent over 2006. The sector processed 1.2 million tonnes of catfish for export to earn US$1.2 billion in 2008. The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (Vasep) reported Tra catfish stands first in export volume and second in turnover after shrimp. [Source: Sai Gon Giai Phong, January 24, 2007]

The catfish are typically raised in the Mekong Delta in nurseries that are 250 to 300 square meters in area and can breed 60,000 to 100,000 catfish kept in cages, Above the nurseries is a floating house. In the early 2000s there were about a dozen and half catfish processing firms in th Mekong Delta that sold the fish for about $3.20 to $4.60 a kilogram.

The floating houses are outfit with a trap door, through which the fish are fed balls of fish fry mixed with rice waste. Some farmers feed the catfish by hand through the trap door. Others use an automated system that delivers small amounts of food with a conveyor belt. The fish snap up the fish feed like a swarm piranhas.

About 300,000 people were engaged in catfish farming in the early 2000s. Many were former subsistence farmers who switched to fish because there were opportunities to make much more money.

Large amounts of Vietnamese catfish are exported to the United States, Europe, Hong Kong, Singapore and other countries. Americans like catfish because it is low in fat and doesn’t have a fishy smell. Vietnam exported about 20,000 tons of catfish to the United States in the early 1990s. Most of it was frozen fillet, making up about 30 percent of Vietnam’s exports and 20 percent of the American $600 million catfish market.

Nguyen Huu Dung PhD., vice president of the Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, said the quality of Vietnamese catfish fillet was found worst in terms of contents of water and protein according to a research conducted by a German university a year ago. This research revealed Vietnamese catfish fillet samples contained 82.3 percent of water, which is too high, and 13.8 percent of protein, too low compared to other countries. Vietnam’s Agriculture and Rural Development has asked the National Fisheries Quality Assurance and Veterinary directorate (Nafiqaved) to tighten its control over processing establishments and mete out strict punishments to catfish exporters who engaged in fraud such as adding water to increase the weight of fish as such acts would spoil the prestige of Vietnam's catfish — one of the country's export staples. [Source: Sai Gon Giai Phong, January 24, 2007]

U.S.-Vietnam Catfish Wars

In the early 2000s, the United States and Vietnam got into a bitter fight over catfish trade. American catfish producer accused Vietnam of dumping catfish to drive American producers out of business. These producers asked for tariffs on Vietnamese imports as high as 190 percent. The Vietnamese said they were not dumping catfish; they were simply outcompeting the Americans with their low labor cost and efficiency.

American catfish producers also complained about the Vietnamese using the word "catfish" to describe their product. They argued that Vietnamese catfish were significantly different in type and taste from American catfish and simply using the word catfish was misleading. They added that they spent millions fo dollars marketing catfish as a delicacy and the Vietnamese were reaping the benefits s of their hard work.

In January 2002, the US Congress passed a new law which restricts the use in the US market of the name "catfish" to fish in the family Ictaluridae, or North American channel catfish. After that catfish from Vietnam were called basa or tra. The US Embassy in Hanoi stated in a press release last week that the new law was not meant to prohibit the import of Vietnamese catfish or restrict the export of fish from Vietnamto the US. However, Minh said that the US legislation aimed to protect the monopoly of local catfish farmers. American catfish farmers have spared no efforts to tarnish the image of Viet Nam's basa and tra catfish in their market and bring pressure to bear on US legislators to ban Vietnamese imports, she said. [Source: Vietnam News Agency, January 08, 2002]

In January 2003, the United States Commerce Department ruled that Vietnamese catfish producers had indeed dumped their products on U.S. markets and tariffs between 36 percent and 64 percent were imposed. The U.S. agency defined Vietnam as a "non-market economy" and, using calculations based on workers in Bangladesh and India, determined that the catfish sold in the United States was sold at a price lower than cost and thus qualified as dumping. Vietnam appealed to the U.S. Court of International Trade.

Many thought the Vietnamese catfish producers were treated very unfairly in the whole episode. They had only been doing what the United States had encouraged them to do and were victims of a well-organized political and special interest attack. At the height of the "catfish war", U.S. catfish farmers and others were describing the imported catfish as an inferior product. However, Mississippi State University researchers found imported basa were preferred in a taste test 3-to-1.

When the US Department of Commerce raised the anti-dumping tax on catfish imported from Vietnam from 36 percent to 64 percent in 2003, it was thought that the Vietnamese catfish exports would "die" as the U.S. at the time consumed 90 percent of Vietnam’s catfish exports. However, the Vietnamese went in search of new markets. After four-years, major markets for Vietnam's tra and basa catfish have changed dramatically. In 2007, the U.S. represented only 6.9 percent of total turnover while the European Union topped the list, accounting for 48 percent, followed by Russia with 9.2 percent, ASEAN countries 7.9 percent, China 4 percent, and Australia 3.9 percent. [Source: Sai Gon Giai Phong, January 24, 2007]

Vietnam Cobblers (Basa) Sold as Cod in Fish n’ Chips

In 2009, Valerie Elliott wrote in the Times of London, “One fish has been reared in the chilly fathoms of the Atlantic Ocean, and its meat is firm and flakes satisfyingly when cooked. The other is farmed in the rivers of the Mekong delta in Vietnam, from where it is frozen and imported to Europe. Although white, its meat crumbles. To connoisseurs they are as different as chalk and cheese. Yet in more and more fish and chip shops they are the cause of a culinary scandal as some unscrupulous friers -- albeit a minority -- try to pass off the Vietnamese river cobbler as our traditional cod. Cobbler -- Pangasius hypophthalmus -- is one of 20 types of catfish produced in Vietnam for 15 years. It is frozen and exported, where they are also sold as panga, basa and tra. Its appearance in supermarkets -- and in chippers -- is not the cause of controversy. The Vietnamese cobbler has won admirers at dinner tables and chip-shop counters. [Source: Valerie Elliott , Times of London, July 13, 2009 ==]

“Once dipped in batter and deep fried, however, there are increasing instances of the river cobbler being sold as cod in one of the more unusual manifestations of the recession's impact on our lives.For fish and chip shop operators, the cash differences -- and the temptations -- are huge. The wholesale price of river cobbler this weekend was €5.75 a kg compared with €13.60 a kg for cod. In Britain the use of the cheaper fish has already led to a prosecution and hefty fine for a fish bar accused of fraud. The owner was fined €9,275 plus costs, reduced to €4,600 plus costs after an appeal. ==

“More prosecutions are in the pipeline and checks are being carried out at other fish and chip shops. "We discovered the fraud after a woman contacted us convinced that the fish she had been served wasn't cod. We conducted tests and eventually found it was pangasius," Britain's Trading Standards enforecment officers said. "There is nothing wrong with this fish and it is widely available in supermarkets and restaurants. People have been looking for more sustainable fish species to protect cod stocks. "But if pangasius is sold, it has to be labelled as such. It cannot just be substituted for cod. "That is not fair on the customer or to other local businesses in competition with the fraudster." ==

The Federation of Fish Friers in Britain is angry that the reputation of its members is being tarnished by the scam. Douglas Roxburgh, its president, said: "We're aware of these frauds. The authorities have got to hand out heavier fines. "It is misleading the public and I say throw the book at them. Someone is just trying to make a fast buck." Many fish and chip operators have started stocking pollock and pangasius as an alternative to cod, he said, but they are sold as pollock and chips or panga and chips. "We can't support mislabelling. If customers are dissatisfied with their meal, the next time they go for a takeaway they'll remember the poorer cod and chips and go for a pizza or a burger instead. It's very damaging for our business," said Mr Roxburgh. ==

Vietnam Aims to Boost Its Fish Product Markets

In 2004, the Asia Times reported: “The Ministry of Fisheries plans to boost exports and diversify markets this year by spending more on trade promotion, a ministry official has said. Deputy Minister Nguyen Thi Hong Minh said the government will spend about vnd 9.9 billion (US$630,000) in 2004, vnd 3.3 billion more than last year on overseas promotion. The funds will be channeled through the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers. [Source: Asia Times, January 17, 2004 <<<]

“Making products more competitive on the world market and penetrating new markets are two major goals, she said. Funds will also be used to send business officials to overseas exhibitions and seminars in major markets such as the United States, the European Union, and Japan. Part of the budget will be used to organize a Vietnam Fisheries Week in major markets, and promote brand names of major seafood products like catfish and shrimp, she said. She said more effort would be made to increase the market share of Vietnamese seafood in Japan from its current 26 percent to 28 percent. <<<

“Increasing exports to mainland China and Hong Kong is also high on the agenda. Minh said Vietnamese seafood products are exported to 75 countries and territories, with the US and Japan the largest markets. Vietnamese shrimp accounts for up to 50 percent of the US's total shrimp exports. Minh said it was important that efforts be made to diversify markets so that exporters do not become too reliant on one market, like the US. The US won a lawsuit last year accusing Vietnamese seafood exporters of dumping catfish on the US market. This year, in another anti-dumping case, the US Southern Shrimp Alliance has filed a petition against five countries, including Vietnam, seeking to impose a 30 to 200 percent tariff on shrimp exports. <<<

"To reduce business risks, we want to reduce shipments to the US to less than 30 percent of the country's seafood exports from the 37.4 percent of last year. The Chinese market has high potential, given the recent clearance of payment problems, and exports there are now entitled to lower tariffs because of co-operation agreements between China and the Association of South East Asian Nations [ASEAN]," she said. Other potential markets include Germany, Spain, Australia and South Korea. Vietnam last year exported $2.24 billion of seafood products, an increase of 10.74 percent year-on-year. The ministry has set a target of $2.55 billion to $2.6 billion in exports this year. By November 2003, seafood export turnover in the US had reached $722.7 billion, an increase of 22.5 percent over 2002. <<<

Shrimp and Shrimp Farming in Vietnam

Top shrimp farming nations in terms of weight: 1) Thailand; 2) China; 3) Indonesia; 4) Vietnam; and 5) Bangladesh. Vietnam exported $1.67 billion dollars of shrimp in 2009. The US was the second-largest importer of Vietnamese shrimp, importing $395 million worth in 2009, down 15 percent from 2008. Vietnam is the fifth-largest shrimp exporter to the US.

Big- and small-time farmers have cleared forests and dug holes for shrimp farms. Many of them raise three-inch-long tiger shrimp for the Japanese market. The business has been so lucrative that boomtowns have emerged from poor fishing villages. The owner of one Mekong Delta shrimp producer told National Geographic in the early 1990s, "We’ve got motels, restaurants, a junior and senior high, and the national power line just reached us. The population of the district has almost doubled.

In 2007, Julia Watson of United Press International wrote: :Along this coast, shrimp feature on every menu. They are the very same shrimp to be found, "fresh frozen" or frozen, in supermarkets across the United States and Europe. In the last two decades, shrimp farming has become one of the fastest growing areas of the fish farming industry, from southeast Asia to Latin America. Vietnam is a prime supplier of shrimp to the West, most of it farmed on the Ca Mau peninsula in the south of Vietnam. [Source: Julia Watson, United Press International, May 14, 2007]

Margot Cohen wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, “Despite the risks, Vietnam is determined to emerge as a big winner in aquaculture. The nation is counting on shrimp becoming one of its few star exports as more traditional commodities such as rice, coffee and pepper remain cursed by low world prices. The seafood sector has already become Vietnam's third-largest earner of foreign exchange, with shrimp exports alone reaching $780 million last year. In 2001 the number of hectares devoted to shrimp nearly doubled to 446,000. The Ministry of Fisheries hopes to expand that to half a million hectares by 2005. [Source: Margot Cohen, Far Eastern Economic Review, August 29, 2002 *-*]

“The shrimp industry "has the potential to be an effective way of leveraging people out of poverty. Rather than achieve incremental gains, they could leapfrog," says one Western development specialist in Hanoi. To reduce financial risk, some local communities are pooling resources and developing ponds without abandoning their other crops. Some inland communities are also being encouraged to raise freshwater shrimp, which are cheaper to produce.” *-*

“Quang Nam is a typical example of a poor province that sees shrimp as the best solution to its own economic woes. It is a coastal province dominated by rice farming, with a per-capita GDP of $300 and virtually no industry other than some tourism. Authorities remain confident that they can reduce the 20 percent disease rate among local shrimp and raise family income to anywhere between 20 million and 100 million dong per hectare, per crop. So the local government is targeting an increase from 2,200 hectares to 6,000 hectares of shrimp over the next several years, and gearing up to invest 23 billion dong in the province's first frozen-shrimp processing factory. *-*

Shrimp Farmers in Vietnam

The largest shrimp farm in the early 2000s was run by Dinh Duc Huu, a Vietnamese-American who returned to Vietnam. Located on the coast of northern Vietnam, it is comprised of acre-size ponds dug into an area know for its poor soil. The ponds receive salt water from a mile long canal and has large pumps for pumping water and a shrimp hatchery. As of early 2004, the farm had 1,500 acres of ponds. Huu Dinh hoped to have 5,000 acres of ponds by the end of 2004 and sell 7,000 tons of shrimp, a sevenfold increase from 2003.

Margot Cohen wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, “Stories of massive debt and disease don't scare Dinh Duc Huu. The Vietnamese-American entrepreneur knows that many shrimp producers across Asia have been wiped out by sudden epidemics in their ponds. But Huu believes he will see a healthy return on his initial $5 million investment in a sprawling, new shrimp farm on the outskirts of Vietnam's northern city of Haiphong. At an August launch, local officials welcomed the prospect of 1,500 new jobs and, more important, Huu's promise to teach local farmers the intricacies of breeding black tiger shrimp. [Source: Margot Cohen, Far Eastern Economic Review, August 29, 2002 *-*]

“It is a delicate business. "Raising shrimp is more difficult than raising a baby," says Huu, an engineer who is drawing on expertise culled from American universities and a California bio-tech firm. "A shrimp doesn't cry when it's sick." But plenty of people are crying down in southern Vietnam, the hub of the nation's shrimp trade. In southern Ca Mau town, disease struck 63,000 hectares of shrimp from January to March. In central Quang Nam province, unusually hot July weather put some shrimp off their food, stunting growth. Even during seasons that are generally profitable, rewards are spread unequally among neighbours. "There are winners and losers," sighs Quang Nam farmer Nguyen Thi Hoa, who can't repay her debts because she has lost 80 percent of her shrimp to disease since 2000. *-*

Problems with Shrimp Farming in Vietnam

In 2007, Julia Watson of United Press International wrote: “Shrimp farming on an industrial scale is threatening the stability of the coastal resources. On a domestic level it's not reassuring to contemplate the safety of fish farming, given that there is virtually no treatment of the waste water issuing from huts and houses. Areas of highly concentrated shrimp farming depend upon antibiotics, fertilizers, disinfectants, hormones and pesticides to keep the shrimp and the waters clean and productive. Without the filtering effect of the mangroves, these are expelled out to sea, destroying both coral reefs and stocks of wild fish upon which the locals depend for food. Shrimp farming is a volatile business. Extremes of temperature and brackish water can kill off a shrimp pond. When shrimp fall sick, disease spreads quickly through the waters from pond to pond. [Source: Julia Watson, United Press International, May 14, 2007]

Margot Cohen wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, “Some community activists and aquaculture specialists worry that the shrimp industry could leave rural folk more disadvantaged than ever. "This export-led development is really unsustainable. It is pushing people into this gamble and making them more addicted to it," warns a Vietnamese development officer at Oxfam Great Britain. "If we involve the poor directly in shrimp-farming activities, it's not good for the poor. It's still high-risk for them, " says Tran Van Nhuong, who is managing a United Nations Development Programme shrimp project based in central Nghe An province. Rather than advocating that the poor try to "leapfrog" out of poverty, only to end up staggering under the heavy loans needed to finance big ponds, they can work as shrimp-pond laborers, help produce feed, or work as small traders, he says. [Source: Margot Cohen, Far Eastern Economic Review, August 29, 2002 *-*]

“The risks are real. The country's shrimp exports grew 10.7 percent year on year in the first six months of 2002, but grew just 4.4 percent in dollar value. And stable prices in its major export markets, namely the United States, Japan, and the European Union, are not guaranteed. Indeed, the price of Vietnam's favored species--black tiger shrimp--has declined by roughly $3 per kilogram over the last three years. Recent disclosures of chloramphenicol traces found in select containers of Vietnamese shrimp add to the uncertainty. *-*

"They've got a false sense of security at the moment," says one analyst in Ho Chi Minh City. "There will be an oversupply. The efficient countries will survive." Vietnam hopes to enhance efficiency, but it's hampered by the disorganized sprawl of hundreds of thousands of household producers and limited government resources for educating small producers. They must be taught proper feeding, pond-clearing and pollution-prevention methods, yet the task is enormous. In Quang Nam province, for example, there are only four government outreach workers helping some 10,000 families who produce shrimp. *-*

“For now, such outreach workers lack the technical equipment to test the quality of the baby shrimp produced at the country's estimated 6,000 household hatcheries. Controlling the quality of feed is also a big problem, since many cash-strapped farmers opt for the cheaper feeds rather than the more pricey brands. Then there's the huge investment that will be required to install wastewater-treatment facilities to preserve the environment and prevent disease from effluent that now washes back into many ponds. *-*

“In light of these problems, some local industry leaders argue that Vietnam should scale back its shrimp targets. "The government better not push production too much, but conduct better planning and ensure sustainable development," says Nguyen Huu Dung, general secretary of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers. Rather than encourage farmers to stock their ponds more densely, Dung believes it would be preferable to promote low-density, low-cost organic farming. Such organically-raised shrimp fetch prices 20 percent higher than ordinary shrimp on the world market. Another solution lies in further diversification into oysters, clams, mussels, and scallops, which are cheaper and less risky to produce. *-*

“From afar, analysts are watching to see whether such expansion throughout the country will truly prove sustainable. If Vietnam overstocks its shrimp ponds in the hopes of short-term profits, the country could be faced with a long-term problem of so-called "shrimp graveyards" where land is abandoned because of unsustainable intensive cultivation. And when greed overtakes need, it may be too late to shift course.

Debt Problems for Shrimp Farmers in Vietnam

Margot Cohen wrote in the Far Eastern Economic Review, “Many farmers are caught in a debt trap. "Having already invested in pond construction, and lacking alternatives, many shrimp farmers feel compelled to continue with the gamble," says a new report from the Environmental Justice Foundation, a London-based advocacy group. "When unable to get credit from banks, many resort to private moneylenders' 'hot loans,'" which reportedly incur monthly interest rates as high as 10 percent-20 percent. [Source: Margot Cohen, Far Eastern Economic Review, August 29, 2002 *-*]

“Take Le Van Bay, a 34-year old shrimp farmer from Cam Chau village in Quang Nam province. A poor rice farmer with a wife and two children, he supplemented the family income by working occasionally in construction for 30,000 dong ($2) a day. In 2000, he decided to wade into shrimp. He managed to get a 50-million-dong bank loan and borrowed roughly 130 million dong from relatives. But he hasn't made any profit on his 8,500-square-metre pond, because of diseased and undersized shrimp. Today, he's keeping his family afloat with loans from relatives, still hoping that he'll strike it rich. "I can't switch from shrimp. I already borrowed from the bank," says Bay. *-*

U.S. Tariffs on Vietnamese Shrimp

Shrimp exports from Vietnam to the United States rose seven-fold between 1998 and 2002. The United States filled dumping charges against Vietnamese shrimpers in the early 2000s. Vietnam responded by hiring a big name U.S. corporate law firm. In November 2004, the US imposed tariffs of between 4 and almost 26 percent on Vietnamese frozen shrimp from different companies. Some companies' tariffs have since been lowered. Initially in July 2004, the United States set tariffs on shrimp from Vietnam as low as 12.1 percent and as high as 93.1 percent after finding that exporters had illegally been dumping shrimp in the United States.

In February 2010, The Nation reported: “Vietnam will file suit with the World Trade Organization to challenge the US's imposition of anti-dumping tariffs on Vietnamese shrimp, a government official confirmed Tuesday. "The US has applied a method of calculating anti-dumping duties that is not suitable with WTO regulations," said Bach Van Mung, director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's competitiveness department. [Source: The Nation February 9, 2010 */*]

“Le Van Quang, chairman of the shrimp committee of the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, said it would challenge the US Department of Commerce's use of a method known as "zeroing" in assessing whether or not a company is dumping products at below-market rates. The US method first calculates the market price of a given good in the exporter's home country, and compares that to the company's sale price of the product in the US. If the sale price is lower than in the home country, the US registers the difference as a negative number, while if it is higher, the US registers it as zero. Significant overall negatives can trigger anti-dumping tariffs. */*

“Most countries contend that export prices higher than domestic prices should be averaged against lower prices to determine whether or not a company is generally engaged in dumping. In a string of recent cases, the WTO has found that zeroing violates its rules, though it has sometimes upheld certain uses of the practice. The state-run newspaper Tuoi Tre on Monday quoted Deputy Trade Minister Le Danh Vinh as saying oy would be the first time Vietnam filed a protest with the WTO since it joined in 2007.

Mangroves Saved in Area Dominated by Shrimp Farms

Huynh Van My wrote in the Viet Nam News, “When hundreds of hectares of mangroves in the central province of Quang Nam's Nui Thanh District were cut down to build shrimp ponds about 25 years ago, residents in Dong Xuan Village were determined to say no to a 'fast buck' because they realised the true value of their village's forest. At the time the decision was viewed as backward, but in the end it has helped them to retain a "museum" of typical mangroves which provide them with sustainable livelihoods and protects them from natural disasters. [Source: Huynh Van My, Viet Nam News, April 14, 2013 ////]

“Tam Giang is like an oasis, just over 1km from the district's administrative centre. It's 5am, and Do Thi Lieu is returning from the river that flows through the mangroves. Despite the dark rings around her eyes caused by lack of sleep, she looks cheerful. "I've caught 2kg of shrimp since 1am, which I can sell for around VND150,000. Our villagers can make a living from the river because we refused to allow our mangroves to be cut down. Fish and shrimp disappeared from many parts of the river a long time ago," says the 49-year-old woman, who has been catching fish on the river since she was very young. ////

Pham Hong Danh, another fisherman, says: "Fortunately, the river near the mangrove forest still has lots of fish and shrimp for us to rely on during the months that we have to stay away from the sea during the stormy season. The mangroves are a shelter and breeding site for all kinds of shrimp, fish, crabs and snails. All we need is a net and a torch to catch some food." ////

“The mangroves also provide protection from the fierce storms and floods that have ripped through the region in recent years. Village chief Pham Van Nhi recalls that during the tropical storm in 2009, locals thought the western part of the village would be destroyed by the strong waves. "That storm was so strong. In the eastern area, winds and waves were weaker, but a 150m dyke was devastated by waves. "The western part of the village was untouched despite the fact there are no dykes because it was protected by the mangroves," he says. ////

“Seventy year old village chief Nhi says that his generation treasures the forests that their ancestors left for them. The riverside village has few fields and the land here is particularly acidic making it difficult to grow crops, so the villagers have to rely on fishing in the river and at sea. "Most of the households earn a living from fishing, and by preserving the mangroves, we can continue to do so for years to come, " he says. ////

“News of this reached Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry, and a group of scientists from the university arrived in the village in March last year to study the local mangroves. "They suggested we establish a mangrove conservation club to persuade people to keep preserve and develop the mangroves. The university also promised that they will help the club members raise shrimp and crab in natural conditions later this year," says Do Thi Lieu, head of the club. ////

Mangroves Cut Down to Make Way for Shrimp Farms

Huynh Van My wrote in the Viet Nam News, “Villagers were shocked when nearby areas cut down their mangroves to make way for shrimp ponds. Huynh Ngoc Anh, 63, the then chief of Tam Giang Commune, recalls: "In 1990, the movement to cut mangroves to build shrimp ponds in Tam Giang began. People were attracted by the benefit of shrimp farming, and in 1992, they hired machines to destroy the mangroves. The noise of the heavy machinery rang out through the village day and night, and by the end of 1997, there were no more mangroves in the commune." [Source: Huynh Van My, Viet Nam News, April 14, 2013 ////]

“Villagers were shocked when nearby areas cut down their mangroves to make way for shrimp ponds. Huynh Ngoc Anh, 63, the then chief of Tam Giang Commune, recalls: "In 1990, the movement to cut mangroves to build shrimp ponds in Tam Giang began. People were attracted by the benefit of shrimp farming, and in 1992, they hired machines to destroy the mangroves. The noise of the heavy machinery rang out through the village day and night, and by the end of 1997, there were no more mangroves in the commune." ////

“The former chairman says that just a few years later, shrimp farmers began to pay the price for their actions. Having enjoyed initial success, disease decimated their stocks, and the annual cost of flood repair work outweighed what they earned from breeding shrimp. They had lost the protection of the mangrove forests. ////

“The mangrove forest acts as "shield" to prevent flooding and storms, and the loss is conspicuous in areas where people have cut down mangroves to build shrimp ponds, says deputy chief of Tam Giang Commune, Pham Van Chau. "We must replant the mangrove forests and learn from that lesson. Tam Giang this year will plant 31ha of mangroves on an area that people used to set up shrimp ponds. It will be expensive and it will take a long time for them to grow back, but we understand now that it was unwise to cut them down in the first place," he says. ////

Pham Van Quyen, the district's deputy chief, also agrees. "Dong Xuan is my home village. In the days before the locals constructed shrimp ponds, the mangrove forest was like a shield that protected the whole commune. Many of the trees were very old and valuable. Destroying the forest was wrong and it's painful to think back on it. "Fortunately, Dong Xuan Village retained its mangrove forest. ////

Vietnamese-American Shrimpers, See Vietnamese-Americans

Vietfish: Vietnam’s Annual Seafood Exhibition

Vietfish is one of the leading seafood shows in the Southeast Asia. Every year, nearly 200 exhibiting companies and more than 30.000 visitors coming from all over the country and around the world attend Vietfish. Among the things that are exhibited are: 1) Seafood products: frozen seafood products, processed and canned seafood, dried seafood, fish-sauce and other aquacultural products; 2) Machine and equipment: machines and equipment for processing, machines and equipment for packing, equipment for cold storage; and 3) chemicals and additives. The first Vietfish was in 1998.

Describing some of the stuff exhibited at Vietfish 2003, which featured 191 booths manned by 124 exhibitors including 24 foreign companies and organizations, the Saigon Times Daily reported: “Song Tien Ltd. of Tien Giang Province, which exports US$7-8 million worth of clams each year, with the European Union taking 80 percent, is seeking more overseas buyers of clam besides the EU importers, director Nguyen Thi Anh said. Among exhibits of her company is concentrated clam juice, which the company mainly ships to Japan. The juice is concentrated from clam boiling water, a by-product at many other seafood companies. Thanh Ha Ltd. in Phu Quoc Island, one of the two Vietnamese fish sauce manufacturers allowed to sell fish sauce to the EU, attends the fair to look for more orders from the market, director Nguyen Thi Nguyet Ha said. Ha added that her company’s main foreign market was the U.S. [Source: The Saigon Times Daily, June 15, 2003 ||||]

“The Hanoi-based Sinh Nam Ltd. is showcasing a device for checking antibiotic residues in seafood. This equipment is manufactured by the U.S. company Charm that has supplied equipment for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The U.S. firm Laitram, meanwhile, showcased at the fair a special device for peeling shrimp skin. The equipment captures much interest from visitors, and the firm’s distributor said it had received an order from a Mekong Delta-based company. ||||

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Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Vietnamtourism. com, Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, CIA World Factbook, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, Fox News and various websites, books and other publications identified in the text.

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© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

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