Fishery Improvement Project

Last update: May 2018


Swordfish (Xiphias gladius) [Western and Central North Pacific Ocean stock]

FIP Stage according to CASS: 1, The fishery’s performance has been evaluated and stakeholders are being recruited to participate in the project.

Fishery Location:

Vietnam Exclusive Economic Zone


FIP Coordination:

If you would like more information about the FIP or if you wish to become a member, please contact Stephen Fisher (Sea Delight) or Gabriela Mc Lean (CeDePesca).

Current FIP Participants (open to new memberships):

Sea Delight (US importer)

CeDePesca (technical support)

FIP Documents:

MSC Pre-Assessment – November 2017

Framework Agreement – July 2018

Draft Action Plan available for comments until July 31st, 2018

Other references:

Fishbase – Swordfish

Date Publicly Announced:

May 2018

Current Improvement Recommendations:

  • To adopt explicit limit or target reference points for the swordfish stocks.
  • To design and adopt a Management Plan for swordfish, including a well-defined harvest control rule.
  • To improve data collection in the fishery.
  • To assess the impacts of the Vietnamese handline fleet over other ecosystem components, such as bycatch species and endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species.
  • To better address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.


Swordfish is a highly migratory species of fish found throughout most of the world’s oceans. Adults are typically found between 15 degrees North and 35 degrees South, while juveniles are more common within tropical and subtropical waters. Migration to more temperate waters occurs as fish mature. This Fishery Improvement Project focuses on the Western and Central North Pacific Ocean (WCNPO) swordfish stock, under the management of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), fished by the Vietnamese handline fishery.

The Vietnamese handline fishery developed in late 2011, and grew dramatically during 2012 when many longline vessels switched to handline. The fishery primarily targets large tunas -such as yellowfin and bigeye- in offshore areas within the Vietnam Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ), although swordfish and other large pelagic species are also taken. Handliners attracts fish using bait and lights, with vessels usually operating up to four lines, each with two hooks. The length of a fishing trip is approximately 25 days. There is incomplete information available on the fleet, but possibly close to 1,500 vessels are currently operating (source: MRAG MSC PA citing tuna pre-assessment, 2013).

The fleet of handline and longline vessels has continued to modernise and upgrade technology, but most are still small and not well equipped by Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) industrial standards. Vessels are licensed at provincial level but any management measures are generally imposed at national level; for example, capacity management and operational restrictions.  All fishing currently occurs within the Vietnam EEZ.

All catch is initially landed in Vietnam, with higher quality catch exported as both whole fish and processed product, with the remainder retained for local consumption and processing.

Key problems/issues:

According to the MSC Pre-Assessment of the fishery, the main obstacles to sustainability are:

  • No explicit limit or target reference points are defined by which to manage exploitation of the stock more robustly.
  • There is not a well-defined harvest control rule in place for swordfish, although there are rules and management tools available from other fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC) area for reducing catch or effort in the swordfish fishery should critical limits be approached.
  • Currently, there is not sufficient information to rule out the finning of sharks.
  • There is poor information on catches in the fishery.
  • There is little information regarding bycatch and ETP species in the fishery.
  • The fishery management system in Vietnam does not explicitly embody the precautionary approach and certain provisions of conservation and management of the WCPFC need to be addressed by the national legislation.
  • There are no fishery-specific objectives for swordfish at the national level.
  • There is no management plan for the fishery.
  • There are shortcomings in addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the country.

FIP Proposed Objectives:

At the time of drafting this report, FIP objectives are considered to be:

  • To achieve the issuing of a new Conservation Management Measure by the Western Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in relation to swordfish for all areas of the Western Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO), including recommendations on specific target and limit reference points for all swordfish stocks.
  • To achieve the design and adoption of a National Swordfish Management Plan by the Government of Vietnam.
  • To encourage Vietnam to become a Commission Cooperating Member of the WCPFC.
  • To achieve implementation of the Vietnam National Plan of Action for Shark, including the adoption of a ban of shark finning at sea.
  • To support the implementation of the Vietnam National Action Plan for Sea Turtles.
  • To support and expand the ongoing onboard observer program in the parent tuna handline fishery.
  • To develop an Enhanced Onboard Data Collection Program to enable fishing vessel crew members to collect data on the interaction with other ecosystem components.
  • To properly identify bycatch species and ETP species interacting with the fishery.
  • To assess the potential risks placed by the fishery on other ecosystem components and to formulate mitigation measures, if necessary.
  • To support the new anti-IUU provisions of the National Fisheries Law.

The proposed objectives are open to discussion and revision by stakeholders willing to become FIP partners during the ongoing consultation process ending on July 10th, 2018.

Progress Update


November – December 2017

In November 2017, MRAG Ltd completed an MSC Pre-Assessment for the Vietnamese Swordfish handline fishery.  Sea Delight shared the MSC Pre-Assessment with CeDePesca to discuss the steps necessary to implement a Fishery Improvement Project.


January – April 2018

Sea Delight and CeDePesca have analyzed the MSC Pre-Assessment and have identified improvement needs.  A draft Action Plan has been designed to address sustainability issues that must be solved for the fishery to attain a certifiable status against the MSC standard.

Sea Delight has decided to open the process to other fishery stakeholders and is now receiving comments on the MSC Pre-Assessment results and the draft Action Plan.  Stakeholders interested in becoming part of the FIP are also welcome to approach Sea Delight or CeDePesca to discuss their membership and participation in the project.