Vietnam Yellowfin Tuna Fishery Improvement Project Industry Meeting

Nha Trang, Vietnam
October 24, 2016

A meeting to review the status of the Vietnam Yellowfin Tuna Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) was convened here for members of the FIP Industry Advisory Group. The meeting was attended by local tuna processors, international FIP Partners including Sea Delight, other importers, distributors and representatives of national and provincial fisheries departments, . The meeting was hosted by WWF Vietnam, WWF Coral Triangle and Vina Tuna.

 1. FIP Progress Review

The meeting got underway with a presentation on the current progress of the FIP against the Work Plan projections. It was noted that the FIP had not made as much overall progress as projected when the Work Plan, and with particular attention to MSC Principle 1 (stock condition), where there remain gaps between stock management in Vietnam and the measures set out by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC).

pic-1MSC Scoring for the FIP, note the improvements needed in Principle 3 (WWF Coral Triangle)

Presentations were then made by FIP Industry members on progress made on Work Plan tasks. It was reported that onboard logbook awareness training, observer training and preparation for onboard observer trials, including circle hook trials were ongoing.  It was noted that these contributions were important in achieving measured progress on Principle 2 (ecosystems).

Sea Delight Representative Stephen Fisher gave a short presentation on community outreach work with supplier Thinh Hung Co. Limited on improving tuna quality and value returned to local fishing communities. Sea Delight also took the opportunity to announce the completion of an MOU with industry advocate group The Vietnam Tuna Association (VINATUNA) to support Sea Delight on the ongoing FIP work.

2Presentation on improved onboard tuna handling training

2. Report on Proposed Traceability System

The second segment of the meeting was opened with a presentation on the ongoing work of developing a workable traceability system for FIP tuna products. The key to the proposed system is a “Unique Trace Code” (UTC) to enable to trace and track FIP tuna at any step of production or distribution back to the harvest vessel.

Much work has already been done on this and prototype code has been developed and is undergoing testing. Sea Delight is supporting these efforts.


 Discussion on traceability UTC

3. Review of Financing Models

The meeting was concluded with the presentation of proposed sustainable financing models for the ongoing FIP work. The current financing model is a traditional mix of fees paid by industry FIP members and financial support through NGOs (WWF) and supporting foundations. The problem with this approach is it is not predictable or sustainable from year to year and has resulted in shortfalls of the total budget requirement.

Two new financing models were proposed to the meeting both based on versions of the “penny per pound” system. This means that the FIP costs are passed on to the buyers in the form of a small price premium for FIP fish.

Detailed proposals on financing models will be provided to FIP industry partners for discussion in the near future. Sea Delight will be sure to report on the model adopted by the FIP.



REPORT: Seafood Sustainability/ FIP Meetings, Mexico City

Since August of this year I have had the opportunity to attend and present in different workshops geared towards understanding FIPs and seafood sustainability. These experiences have not only reinforced ideas I had about seafood sustainability, but also provided a clearer understanding on how smaller NGOs view conservation efforts and their relationship with industry, and have helped reshape the role Sea Delight Ocean Fund (SDOF) plays and created a space for SDOF to be that bridge connecting industry with smaller NGOs that are just starting to dab into organizing their projects under the Fishery Improvement Project (FIPs) umbrella.

August, 2016- The Central America Regional FIP Workshop. Mexico City, Mexico.

During this meeting, I was surprised at the lack of attendance from the seafood industry. It can be challenging to make the business case for supporting FIPs when industry is not present. I can certainly discuss market trends and demands for responsibly sourced seafood in North America, but I certainly do not represent the entire seafood industry and can only speak from our experience.

We cannot cater to industry needs.” This was a  comment I received during one of the smaller group sessions I was leading.  The concern is that smaller NGOs traditionally work on conservation efforts only. The table discussion led to this understanding that we must know our audience. It certainly is not about catering to industry needs but understanding that industry can be an ally in helping support conservation efforts. Having market access for products that are part of a FIP and the interest from companies in sourcing these products, can be used to exert government pressure to enact, enforce, and follow through with regulations that benefit better fishery management efforts and also provide some funding.

It became evident that improving government-NGO-industry relations is imperative in order to achieve common goals. My message to the participating representatives of the local governmental institutions is to see NGOs as tools that can be used to achieve better fishery management goals; specially through data collection, stock assessments, research, etc.


October, 2016-  Workshops for Certification and Promotion of Sustainable Fishing organized by Comunidad y Biodiversidad (COBI). Mexico City, Mexico.

From October 17 to 21, 2016, 74 representatives of the fishing and aquaculture sector: federations and fisher’s cooperatives, NGOs, officials and researchers from Instituto Nacional de Pesca (INAPESCA) and Comisión Nacional de Acuacultura y Pesca (CONAPESCA), national and foreign consultants, Entrepreneurs, government agencies such as Trust Funds for Rural Development (FIRA) and National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO), together with COBI and the Senate Fisheries and Aquaculture Commission, met to review and analyze the Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIP) and the three international standards: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, and  Fair Trade, which promote fisheries sustainability in order to achieve sustainable and socially responsible use of resources, and the protection and conservation of Coastal and marine ecosystems.

I was invited by COBI to participate in a panel to discuss “Market Trends for Sustainable Seafood and FIPs as Access to Market” alongside representatives from Quirch Foods, Walmart Mexico, and a local producer, Nemi Natura.  During this panel we were able to share how the markets are increasingly requesting products that are responsibly sourced.  Interestingly, Walmart Mexico is looking to work with local producers to support their sustainability efforts by placing their products in their stores; which has been challenging before because of lack of volume, competitive price, and also payment time frames which do not work with smaller producers (45+ days).

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There is a real need for producers and fisheries to understand the market where their product is placed and what is the best certification needed (if they choose to seek certification). They need to be prepared to face new demands of the market (from consumers, restaurants, hotels, among others) for sustainability and social responsibility throughout the value chain. Participating in Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs) allows producers to respond to these market demands while preparing to undergo certification if they choose to.

November, 2016. “Dialogue on innovation in financing and investment for sustainable fishing” organized by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) of Mexico. Mexico City, Mexico.

During this meeting, panelist and presenters reviewed different credit/ financing opportunities that producers could have access to in order to help transition towards seafood sustainability. Some of the issues that were raised were related to high interest rates, the inability to use fishing licences and quotas as collateral, lack of access to lower rate investments on a timely manner, and lack of assistance to small producers to be able to complete the applications.

There are financing opportunities available through resources in the “Banca Mexicana,” interest by international investors to invest in sustainability, a growth in impact funding, and an increase in demand for sustainable seafood. However, there continues to be a lack of a regulatory framework which affects fisheries management.

Even though we were discussing financing sustainable fishing practices, during the dialogue, no definition for sustainable fishing or sustainable seafood was provided. During my presentation, I tried to provide background information for what are FIPs, define sustainability from an industry perspective, and focus on how customers in the USA define their commitments for responsible seafood based on certifications (such as BAP/MSC), Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, or support in FIPs. Most importantly, I encouraged participants already working on improvement efforts in the fisheries they source from to organize themselves as a FIP, and create a profile in Fishery Progress website so that they can promote their improvement efforts, connect with companies interested in support their FIPs, have access to market for their products, and also connect with buyers looking to source products from the FIPs they are leading.

The message remains the same- From a business perspective, producers need to understand their customers and be aware of their sustainability commitments so that they can better adjust/transition towards achieving sustainability and market recognition for these efforts. Also, working with local NGOs is essential to help with the technical support to improve a fishery. Government engagement is imperative in order to improve management, enforce regulation, and support activities to achieve sustainability.

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Adriana Sanchez @seafoodninja  is the Sustainability Director for Sea Delight, LLC, and the President of the Sea Delight Ocean Fund, Inc., Adriana is responsible for coordinating development efforts and support for Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) in Indonesia, Vietnam, Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and Costa Rica.  Her areas of expertise include strategic planning, evaluation, management of international and multicultural teams and projects as well as fostering partnerships with members of the seafood industry and other conservation groups to assist in the proper development and implementation of Sea Delight’s sustainability initiatives.

Nha Trang Seafood Processor Supports Local Tuna Fishing Communities

Oct. 17, 2016
Nha Trang, Vietnam

Thinh Hung Co. LTD, a frozen seafood processor based here in Nha Trang, has entered phase 2 of an effort to support local tuna fishing communities. These communities, fishing from handline vessels in Vietnam’s Eastern Sea (Hoang Sa, Truong Sa), have been providing Thinh Hung with fresh, good quality, tuna for years. However, Thinh Hung Vice President, Huynh Dac Tri, saw there was room for improvement in overall catch quality and a way to “pay it back” to the fishers themselves.

1The Director of the Khanh Hoa Province Department of Fisheries opens the meeting

 Mr. Tri and Thinh Hung Co. ownership made a simple offer to tuna vessel owners: We will teach you better onboard handling practice for tuna, provide you the tools to accomplish it, and pay you more for the better quality tuna you harvest. This offer was backed up by the support of key customers like Sea Delight.

In the past many buyers have come forward and offered the tuna fishing communities more money if they would catch better quality fish. But there was always a “catch”; fishermen would have to finance the extra gear and effort to improve quality themselves before seeing any higher price. Thinh Hung took a new approach that vessel owners could understand and accept. All fish are tracked from vessel to factory. Vessel lots with more than 10% air export grade are paid a premium per kilo. The quality records are shared with the vessel owners and each month the 3 top quality vessels from each port receive a bonus. Every 6 months the top 3 quality vessels receive an additional, much larger, bonus.

So far 139 vessels in Binh Dinh Province have been following the program and there are 46 new members here in Khanh Hoa as of this writing.

Sea Delight representative Stephen Fisher attended the training on Oct. 17 in Nha Trang for the Khanh Hoa vessel captains. The training was also supported and hosted by the Khanh Hoa Province Department of Fisheries.

Clear and concise photo presentations and videos were shown to the captains. These showed how properly handle tuna at the time of catch in order to improve quality. Each vessel owner was then presented with a set of the same high-quality stainless steel tools shown in the presentations. All were also entered into the quality/reward program for all upcoming fishing trips.

2The Head of the Khanh Hoa Tuna Fishing association and Thinh Hung Co. Vice President Huynh Dac Tri sign an MOU on the Better Practice program.

The program is already working in Binh Dinh, with a higher percentage of good quality fish being landed and better prices and bonuses going back to the fishing communities. Sea Delight will be sure to report on the progress of the program here in Khanh Hoa as well.