Vietnam is the world’s third largest exporter of tuna but the export value has remained modest mainly due to uneven production and a failure to match international standards. In 2010, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission launched a project to support Vietnamese tuna fishing and help Vietnam to become an official member.
Nine species of tuna can be found along the Vietnamese coastline, mainly offshore from the central and southeastern region. According to the Vietnam Tuna Association, there is a reserve of 50,000 tons of fish - 17,000 tons of sustainable fishing per year. The Ministry of Industry and Trade says tuna is one of the three top seafood currency earners along with catfish and shrimp. Currently, Vietnam has more than 2,500 vessels of various kinds engaged in tuna fishing, with an annual output of 10,000 tons. The central province of Phu Yen, the cradle of Vietnamese tuna fishing, has the biggest vessels. This year alone, Phu Yen fishermen have either built or upgraded hundreds of fishing boats. Fisherman Nguyen Dau is from Tuy Hoa city in Phu Yen ‘In the past, only fishermen in Phu Yen or Binh Dinh were involved in tuna fishing. The trade has now spread nationwide from the south to the north as it’s quite easy.’
Up to 90% of tuna products are for export. Last year, Vietnam earned about 400 million USD from selling tuna abroad. Over the past nine months, exports has fetched 430 million USD and Vietnamese tuna products are now available in 92 countries and territories. Tuna exports are forecast to continue rising while exports of other seafood products are declining. Despite the strong growth of tuna fishing and processing, Vietnam still lacks a legal framework for the industry whose preservation, processing, and marketing have developed haphazardly. Vu Dinh Dap, President of the Vietnam Tuna Association, says ‘With such limitations, our export items will be constrained by host countries’ technical barriers because importers often require evidence of product origins or conditions of food safety. If we lack these documents, foreign partners can force us to sell our products at lower prices.’
In 2010, the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission helped Vietnam implement a project on tuna fishing management focusing on two types of yellow fin tuna which are in danger of disappearing due to over – fishing. The project creates a scientific foundation for fishing management with the aim of making Vietnam an official member. Pham Trong Yen, Deputy Director of the Department of Science and Technology and International Cooperation and Relations under the General Department of Seafood says the membership will benefit both Vietnam and the Commission. Yen said ‘To date, Vietnam hasn’t got any specific legal framework for tuna fishing. Vietnam has participated in catching the fish but doesn’t have any set method of preserving them. This project has helped us survey Vietnam’s laws relating to tuna, based on which state management agencies will propose necessary changes. ’