Vietnam is home to one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world, providing habitats including mangroves, coral reefs, sea grass beds and coastal lagoons for a wide variety of species. Because of this diversity (particularly in commercially valuable marine species) and its extensive coastline (>3000km), an important sector of Vietnam’s economy is fishing. However, its coastal fisheries are suffering under intense over-exploitation. It is reported that the catch in areas of 50m depth or less is two to three times higher than the maximum sustainable yield (MSY). This simply cannot be sustained.
The country’s fisheries sector is governed by a suite of legislation at both state and provincial levels. The strategic fisheries masterplan has been revised and adopted in 2013 that has the overall aims to increase the added value and sustainable development of the fisheries sector. As part of the re-structuring and reform strategies, the government also adopted its NPOA ‘National Plan of Action’ in 2014 to reduce fishing effort, as well as protection of the fisheries resources part of which involved revising the existing national policies and legal frameworks to ensure sustainability played a more significant role.
The Centre for Marinelife Conservation and Community Development (MCD) with support from ADM Capital Foundation has been working to address challenges facing Vietnam’s fisheries sector. MCD is supporting a pilot of Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries Management (EAFM) in Binh Dinh Province in Central Vietnam which has advocated this approach to Vietnam’s government and worked with the Directorate of Fisheries (D Fish) to incorporate important components into the revision of the 2003 Fisheries Law. Integral to this approach is co management, whereby the local fisher communities who rely on the fisheries for their livelihoods, work collaboratively with the government to manage the resource. Empowering these communities has proven to be successful in fisheries management in other jurisdictions, such as parts of the Philippines.
On November 21st 2017, the National assembly adopted the long awaited amendment to the Fisheries Law [Fisheries Law (Amended), Law No. 18 /2017/QH14] and the concept of co-management was introduced into a legal document for the first time in Vietnam. Local community groups now have the legal recognition needed to effectively carry out marine resources protection at a local level, including the delegation of fishing rights.
The law also addresses climate change, and the fight against Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU), and the need to strengthen management of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The government has clearly recognised that giving local communes more power to manage their own resources is the most effective way of managing them sustainably. Collaboration between national/local authorities and communities is essential. Once the law is implemented, co-management groups will be required to create their own fishery management plans in accordance with the detail found in the decrees and guidelines, with help from provincial and commune level authorities. D-Fish will also develop an action plan to support the co-management and community groups over the coming year and, on the availability of financial, human and technical resources.
In the run up to the new laws coming into force on 1st January 2019, the following needs to be addressed:
(i) communication and education so communities understand the amended law’s benefit;
(ii) development of under-law documents (decree, circulars, guidelines);
(iii) development of policies to support the fisheries management at both national and local levels including the financial resources, human resources and technical resources; and
(iv) development of plans for enforcement, implementation and monitoring.
MCD is continuing its work with the Directorate of Fisheries co-hosting workshops to inform and educate stakeholders of the implications of the new law, developing the co-management decree and the decree on MPAs.
Vietnam like other countries in the region is facing significant challenges in the face of overfishing, IUU and depletion of its marine resources, however the Amended Fisheries Laws and the adoption of co-management across Vietnam, is a welcome step in the right direction.