Vietnam swordfish

Vietnam swordfish

Fishery Improvement Project

Last update: March 2019

Species:

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

FIP Stage according to CASS Progress Table: 3, The fishery is encouraging improvements.

FIP Rating according to MSC benchmarking tool:  Initial (2018): 0.46

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):

FIP Documents:

Other references:

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.

Background:

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 Objectives:

The specific objectives of this FIP are:

  • To adopt explicit limit or target reference points for the swordfish stocks by January 2021.
  • To design and adopt a Management Plan for swordfish, including a well-defined harvest control rule by January 2021.
  • To improve data collection in the fishery by July 2022.
  • To assess the impacts of the Vietnamese handline fleet over other ecosystem components, such as bycatch species and endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species by July 2022.
  • To better address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by January 2021.
  • To achieve an MSC-certifiable status by July 2022.

The FIP Action Plan has been designed to attain the aforementioned objectives.

Progress Update

2017

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.

2018

January – April 2018

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

Sea Delight decided to open the process to other fishery stakeholders and a period to receive comments on the MSC Pre-Assessment results and the draft Action Plan was set.  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.

May – November 2018

Sea Delight and CeDePesca signed a Framework Agreement (July 2018) and its addendum N1 (October 2018), setting up the guidelines that will orient the implementation of the Vietnam Swordfish Handline FIP as well as the process of including new FIP partners.  In addition, the FIP’s Action Plan and its associated budget have been streamlined. Improvement efforts are to begin in December 2018.

It should be highlighted that Vietnam has issued a mandatory catch certificate that all swordfish/tuna vessels must complete and submit to local D-Fish in order to unload and sell their products.  This certificate is being used to inform WCPFC on catch data. The certificate is being enforced as of October 2018.

December 2018

Sea Delight attended the 2018 Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) annual meeting as an observer.  A joint request by several stakeholders was submitted to the commission asking for management measures with specific target and limit reference points for North Pacific swordfish.  The letter also highlighted the need for a harvest control rule that takes into account the inherent uncertainty of stock assessments. During the meeting, the Northern Committee made an announcement that a WCPFC Management Strategy for Northern Swordfish has been completed and will be released in 2019.  

With the aim to improve fishery research, fishers in the Khanh Hoa province have been invited to support a new effort to increase data collection on secondary catch in the fishery through their participation in the Volunteer Fishery Monitor (VFM) program that will be set up by this FIP.  The meeting took place on December 25th, and it included the participation of local fishing community members and local authorities.

In addition, Sea Delight and CeDePesca have agreed to work with WWF Vietnam and Thinh Hung Company to encourage vessel captains to volunteer for the planned C-hook program that is sponsored by WWF Hong Kong.

2019

January – March 2019

An Android app called the “Crew Observer Photographic Protocol Application – COPPA” with capability to create a Trip Report document with text and photos and a Google Trip Map has been designed.  The app has been tested successfully in February 2019. At-sea testing is expected to start soon. The programming was completed by IT code writers from the Vietnam Tuna Association. The app was shared at the Global Dialogue on Seafood Traceability (GDST) “Hackathon” in Bangkok in late February.  It is expected that a more polished version for onboard trials will be quickly developed.