Lê Trần Nguyên Hùng, deputy head of the Department of Aquatic Resources Conservation and Development spoke to Nông Thôn Ngày Nay (Countryside Today) newspaper about invasive species such as red-claw crayfish and freshwater lobster and the damage they could cause to Việt Nam's agriculture sector.
Việt Nam's Directorate of Fisheries has worked with the northern mountainous province of Lào Cai to stop the smuggling of red-claw crayfish and freshwater lobsters. How is it going?
The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) has launched an investigation into the trade and consumption of both species.
None of the 19 farmers’ markets and 21 fisheries enterprises in Hà Nội which were inspected were found to be selling these species.
At present, crayfish and freshwater lobster are commonly sold online, making it difficult to detect and handle the trade.
From May 1 to 22, 945kg of red-claw crayfish was seized in Lào Cai Province. However, most were able to escape and authorities were only able to arrest traders carrying 75kg of red-claw crayfish.
In 2017, smallholdings in the Mekong Delta province of Đồng Nai bred red-claw crayfish without permission and were handled afterward. How has Việt Nam researched on the species?
In May 2002, the Research Institute for Aquaculture No.1 imported and farmed red-claw crayfish for experiment. However, due to its terrible harms to the biodiversity, Ministry of Fisheries (now MoARD) in 2004 issued a ban on crayfish.
In 2017 when some small holdings who stealthily farmed red-claw crayfish to export to China were detected, MoARD commanded to strictly handle these farmers and cull all crayfish.
In 2006, freshwater lobster was also imported from China to Việt Nam for experimental breeding. In 2008, the Research Institute for Aquaculture No.1 conducted a research on this species and piloted in three provinces of Phú Thọ, Ninh Bình and Hà Nam.
The results showed that despite its economic value, without efficient management, its will negatively affect the environment and agricultural production. The farming of freshwater lobster then was stopped.
There has been a lot of argument over red-claw crayfish’s economic value. However, considering the damage on biodiversity, prohibition is necessary.
The damage cannot be seen immediately yet the biodiversity, once being destroyed, will be hardly restored.
In countries where red-claw crayfish has been bred, farming areas are restricted and all stops are pulled out to prevent it from spreading to nature.
In Việt Nam’s current condition where farms are small and hard to control, the leak of red-claw crayfish to the environment can be a real tragedy.
Red-claw crayfish and freshwater lobster eat both live and dead animals and plants as well as can burrow in and destroy dykes. Therefore, they are featured in the top 100 most dangerous species in the world.
How can Việt Nam prevent the smuggling of red-claw crayfish and freshwater lobster?
I am afraid that 945kg of red-claw crayfish seized is just the tip of the iceberg. Fine increase is essential to prevent the trade of it.
In the seizure of 75 kg of red-claw crayfish, traders were fined only VNĐ1.5 million (US$64) as regulated in the Decree no.127 on cross-border goods.
If the Decree no. 155 on environment protection was applied in this case, the fine would be up to hundreds of million đồng.
According to the Criminal code, the fine for trafficking and trading alien animal is up to VNĐ1 billion ($42,600). In some serious case, criminal prosecution is possible.
Besides, management over the border area must be tightened along with plans to stop smuggling and trading at markets.
Law enforcement agencies should raise awareness among people to not use, sell red-claw crayfish and report immediately when they find the animal.
There has been no report yet that red-claw crayfish and freshwater lobster were leaked into the environment VNS