by IFFO, the Marine Ingredients Organisation


South East Asian seas serve as a major source of food and livelihood for hundreds of millions of people. 80 percent of the seafood produced by these waters, mainly fisheries in Vietnam and Thailand, is supplied for human consumption.

The remaining 20 percent is used to produce fishmeal and oil used in aquaculture feeds. Both these supply chains use seafood from complex, multi-species fisheries which are intrinsically more complex than those found in northern waters.

Traditional fisheries management techniques are challenging to apply to this region which has one of the most diverse marine ecosystems in the world and currently there is no consensus on the most appropriate ways to manage these tropical multispecies, multi-gear fisheries.

The Marine Ingredients Organisation (IFFO) co-funded a study with the Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), focused on Thailand and Vietnam, to fill information gaps and help drive positive change. Now, IFFO calls for co-management that opens the path to a specific way of addressing the existing challenges.


South East Asian fisheries are facing numerous challenges

South East Asian fisheries are crucial in the global seafood value chain, generating several billion dollars in GDP for the region. As a result, some countries in the region have been subject to media interest in the environmental, social and ethical practices in the region.

Thailand, for instance, is the third largest seafood exporter in the world. As a consequence of the increasing demand, Thailand and Vietnam invested heavily in developing their fisheries from the 1960s through the 1980s, which significantly increased fishing effort.

Today, overfishing and destructive fishing methods threaten the existence of the South East Asian seafood system. A report released in 2018 by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) stated that, 'Target 75* (for the sector overall) can only be achieved by expanding improvement efforts in Asian reduction fisheries. Higher-volume multispecies trawl and small pelagic fisheries must be investigated to identify the most likely candidates to contribute to improvement in this sector'.

However, with the increasing drive for certification schemes and the collective involvement of local governments, citizens, local and global NGOs, there are incentives and good prospects of finding the keys to move toward more sustainable practices.

Market pressure from processors, aquaculture producers and exporters can have a positive effect on encouraging a transition to responsible production. In April 2015, the European Union issued a 'yellow card' warning in response to a failure by Thailand to sufficiently tackle the problem of IUU fishing, a step also taken for Vietnam in October 2017.


More sustainable practices are already in the works

Thailand's reforms to address illegal fishing (including the establishment of Port In-Port Out (PIPO) reporting measures, a large electronic vessel tracking system and better traceability, amongst many other initiatives) enabled the lifting of the yellow card in January 2019.

Furthermore, Fisheries Improvement Projects (FIPs) have become recognised as a stepping stone to achieving step-wise improvements in fishery management and providing responsible sourcing opportunitiesin the supply chain.

In November 2018, IFFO Responsible Supply (IFFO RS) launched new criteria developed specifically to assess multispecies fisheries.These criteria are to be tested as part of a three-year pilot programme.

IFFO RS and other representatives from their Multispecies Pilot Steering Group regularly meet with stakeholders in Thailand to determine what should be expected from them within a tailor-made framework. This pilot will feed information into the process of outlining the requirements for acceptance onto the IFFO RS Improver Programme, hopefully leading in due course to full IFFO RS certification in some of the region's complex fisheries.


IFFO is acting as a facilitator

Today, for IFFO, the focus must continue to be the provision of assistance to SEA fisheries managers through facilitating the sharing of global best practice and providing a framework for improvement.

IFFO will keep on engaging with other stakeholders, especially governments and industry regulators. What is at stake is: to maintain the momentum generated by theSouth East Asian projectand to useIFFO's influence within aquaculture supply chains to promote robust responsible standards and Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs).

This approach was demonstrated in Bangkok in June 2019 at the SeaWeb summit where a workshop was chaired by IFFO RS Executive Chairman, Libby Woodhatch. This provided evidence that a continued collaborative approach has the potential to bring together a collection of inspirational stories that can help all stakeholders – starting with the fishermen - understand what the seafood value chain is composed of and how each part of it contributes to a global outcome: feeding a growing population in need for highly nutritious products.


* Target 75 (T75) is a global movement launched last year that seeks to encourage producers of 75 percent of the world's seafood to operate sustainably, or at least move toward sustainable production, by the close of 2020.

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