|Fishermen prepare logistics for long fishing trips at Thọ Quang fishing port in Đà Nẵng. — VNS Photo Công Thành|
ĐÀ NẴNG — The Prime Minister has asked ministries and localities to boost control on unsafe seafood exports and remove poor quality aquaculture products that failed to conduct food safety regulations at import markets.
The PM has given an instruction on measures and solutions of batches of sea products that had been either returned or flagged by importing countries recently.
The instruction also required joint actions among ministries of agriculture, health, industry and trade, public security, and association of seafood exporters and producers (VASEP) to promoting strict controls and management of the use of chemicals, antibiotics, and additives in food processing.
Relevant agencies are required to inform businesses about quarantine regulations, policy changes and import conditions of sea products that were given by importing countries.
Following the instruction, progressive actions and measures, as well as education programmes on illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, have been held by local fishery associations, as positive solutions for the European Commission (EC)’s ‘yellow card’ warning to Việt Nam over IUU fishing last year.
The yellow card is a warning measure, given to nations considered at risk of being deemed uncooperative in the fight against IUU fishing.
Chairman of Đà Nẵng City’s Fisheries Association Trần Văn Lĩnh said education and practical training for fishermen, captains and ship owners had been regularly carried out by the association, even before the ‘yellow card’ warning.
“All seafood and sea product processing companies for exports in Đà Nẵng had to follow strict regulations given by the EU. It’s because local exporters and processing companies could not get the necessary permission for exporting to the EU market if they did not follow various regulations on food safety. Regulations include obtaining a Certificate of Original (CO), and measures relating to the fishing grounds and quality of seafood stores,” Lĩnh said.
“Almost all offshore fishing boats are equipped with a Global Positioning System (GPS), or sea journey diary containing the co-ordinates of fishing, and also fish species that are illegal to catch,” he said, adding that the education and communication programmes had been performed by the association since 2010.
Lĩnh said the association has 1,100 fishing boats, of which 30 per cent were high-capacity ships (90CV engine), and 20 per cent carry modern fishing equipment and are capable of long voyages.
He said Đà Nẵng that the fishing port authority had advised fishermen and boat owners regarding fishing licenses, the need to record in a sea journey diary, and the need for a CO, three years prior to the EC’s ‘yellow card’ warning.
Lĩnh explained that fishermen and ship owners recognised that these procedures would improve the quality of their product, and thus help them to export to the EU, leading to a higher income.
|Fish is loaded at Thọ Quang fishing port for processing for export. — VNS Photo Công Thành|
Nguyễn Thân, a captain in Đà Nẵng, said his fleet of four offshore vessels often fish in the sea of the Hoàng Sa (Paracel) Islands of Việt Nam.
“We often catch tuna for export, so the coordinates of our fishing ground were constantly reported to the mainland’s sea product management sub-department. Our captains were well educated and knew the appropriate laws regarding their trade. They kept a sea diary, and were aware of the documents related to fishing and sea journeys,” Thân said, adding that these ships also received warnings on areas where fishing is illegal.
He added that his fleet of 48 fishermen could catch 40 tonnes of fish each month and that fishermen working on the four ships were well aware of banned fish species, the regulations on fishing nets, fishing seasons and food safety conditions.
Thân stressed that 90 per cent of their fish were processed for export at local factories.
Nguyễn Toàn, the owner of a fishing boat in Sơn Trà district said that the EU’s regulations in seafood and sea production exports helped fishermen develop their awareness on laws and violations that they could face in fishing trips.
“We had to change, or our fish would be returned by importers. Previously, fishermen or captains were not aware of sea journey diaries, COs, or co-ordinate recording, nor were they aware of the need for cold storage of fish, but it became the norm in recent years,” Toàn said.
Major Nguyễn Văn Bình, from the city’s Border Guard Force, said communicating laws, fish species bans, or strict regulations on the size of fishing nets is ensured at fishing ports or on board ships.
Bình said fishermen also receive updated warnings on new regulations or procedures dictated by the EU or importing countries.
Nguyễn Thạnh, a fisherman from Quảng Ngãi’s Sa Huỳnh district, said his boat often docks at Thọ Quang to sell fish.
“We will earn a lot from our fish with full certificates of fishing ground, food safety regulations, and if we release small fish as well. We will lose out if we do not follow the strict conditions that the association and relevant fishery agencies and administrations had warned us about,” Thạnh said.
Lĩnh said Việt Nam should build up more vocational centres to educate fishermen and captains in the near future.
“The country’s fishing industry should have a face-lift reform policy. The trade needs a strategic development plan that requires professional education programmes and centres as well as increased studying of fish reserve data. We also need to build modern fishing fleets with well-equipped ships,” Lĩnh said.
He said fishing in Việt Nam is still a traditional trade, and not as professional as the countries like Japan and Korea.
“Fishermen must have a strong education,” he said, adding that just 60 per cent of fishermen finished junior secondary school.
“Automated technology is needed to replace current manual or labour-intensive fishing. Over-fishing, fishing in banned seasons or the use of explosives must be banned from the trade.”
|VNS Infographic Hoàng Anh|
General Manager of a Đà Nẵng-based trading and service company under Chinese Taipei Chiu Cheng Tsai said Việt Nam should set up an exclusive organisation to enforce strict controls on fishing boats, and each boat must be installed with a GPRS.
“The organisation will require regular reports from fishing vessels regarding their daily fishing volume, what kind of fish and size of fish, and the kind of fishing net. Each fishing boat must be given a code to keep orderly control,” Chiu said.
“You should open training courses for captains and crew members in fishing skills, and the preservation of fresh seafood,” he said.
Chiu said management agencies of Việt Nam should supervise some seafood factories with imported fish or seafood for exporting with CO Việt Nam.
Chiu said his company alone exports seafood worth $10 million to Europe and the US market annually, and all fishing boats are required to submit clear sea journey diaries and fishing ground coordinates before their fish are processed for export.
At a conference on solutions for the European Commission (EC)’s ‘yellow card’ warning to Việt Nam over IUU fishing in Đà Nẵng last year, legal experts under the Natural Resources and Environment Ministry said that strict sanctions were included in the revised Law on Fisheries that was approved by the National Assembly on November 21, 2017.
Phan Thị Huệ, head of the section for legislation and inspection under the department of sea product, said that the revised law on fisheries states that up to 10 years in prison and fines of up to VNĐ5 billion (US$221,000) now await captains, fishermen and boat owners who conduct illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Huệ said that the revised law also prescribes fines from VNĐ50 million ($2,200) to VNĐ70 million ($3,000) and the revocation of fishing licenses from three to six months for smaller cases of illegal fishing.
She said it also stipulates that all fishing boats longer than 15m must run tracking systems 24 hours a day when at sea.
“The law also included detailed regulations based on the principles of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, as well as the Port State Measures Agreement by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the Straddling Fish Stocks Agreement of the United Nations and the EC’s recommendations,” Huệ said.
It also states that the temporary import and re-export of illegal fishing materials and sea products via Vietnamese ports is illegal.
Deputy General Secretary of the Việt Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) Nguyễn Hoài Nam said the association, in cooperation with Eurocham, has issued a white paper in English and Vietnamese and a database on fisheries to promote Việt Nam’s efforts to improve its legal system in regards to IUU fishing.
He said more than 60 out of 100 businesses from VASEP have committed to fighting IUU fishing, and these positive actions will be clearly and publicly shown to the EC.
The Government has approved an action plan to prevent, minimise and eliminate IUU fishing by 2025, set be issued later this month.
According to VASEP, Việt Nam’s sea product export earned US$8.3 billion in 2017, of which 20 per cent were to the EU market. — VNS