Some history and quick facts
The tuna fisheries sector is an important industry in Vietnam, with an extensive coastline and an Exclusive Economic Zone of 1 million km2. In 1997, the Government of Vietnam launched a nationwide program to support the development of offshore (also called oceanic) tuna fisheries and relieve the pressures on coastal fisheries by providing subsidies for the construction of offshore fishing vessels. Vietnam is the number two leading exporter of yellowfin tuna to the United States.
There are 3 gears targeting oceanic/offshore tuna: gillnets, purse-seine, longline/handline. The longline fishery is present only in the 3 central provinces of Vietnam (Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Khanh Hoa) which caught 1,678 MT of tuna in 2012. Recently, the longline fishery has been undergoing major changes in fleet structure, with the conversion of longline fishermen to handline fishing since late 2011.
Phu Yen longline/handline tuna fishery
Fishing & Living’s FIP work is focused on the Phu Yen Province which is located on the central coast of Vietnam and is one of the 3 main provinces where tuna longlining takes place.
There are two gears used in Phu Yen: handline and longline. Based on fishermen interviews, 90% of boats are geared for handline and 10% for longline. Contrary to other tuna provinces, fishing vessels in Phu Yen have not been transitioning to handline very quickly. Handline was introduced to the PhuYen province in April 2012. In 2014, 175 vessels are using handline.
The main difference between the two techniques is that handline uses a single hooked line attached on a bamboo pole to catch the fish and the fish is quickly raised out of the water. Additionally, handline boats have 10-30 lamps on board to attract squid (bait).
Tuna Species caught
The Phu Yen based longline fishery mainly catches Yellowfin (70%) and Bigeye tuna (20%).
Yellowfin tuna (Thunnus albacares) is a highly migratory and relatively fast growing species and are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions. These are found in the upper 100m of the water column. Longline catches in the WCPO have been stable at 70-80,000t/year since the 1980′s. In 2012, Vietnam reported catches of 15,896MT of Yellowfin in its EEZ of which 78% (12,548MT) was caught with longline/handline. The latest stock assessment (2011) indicates that the stock is not overfished and not under going overfishing, although the stock is fully exploited in some sub-regions.
Bigeye tuna (Thunnus Obesus) are distributed in tropical and sub-tropical regions with circumglobal distribution. Their migratory patterns are poorly known and they are relatively fast growing. Juveniles and small adults tend to school at the surface whereas larger adults stay in deeper waters. Longline catches in the WCPO since 2004 have ranged from 67,000 to 77,000mt/year. In 2012, Vietnam reported Bigeye catches of 4,627MT of which 81% was caught with longline/handline. The latest stock assessment (2011) indicates that Bigeye tuna stocks are currently under going overfishing but are not yet in an overfished state (explained, in part, by higher than average recruitment in recent years).
Vietnamese fisheries are managed at the national, provincial and district level by a number of governmental bodies and the support of research institutions. At the national level, fisheries are managed by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) and the Department of Fisheries Resources Exploitation and Protection (DECAFIREP). At the provincial level, management responsibilities are delegated to local branches of MARD (Departments of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD)) and provincial units called Sub-DECAFIREP. DARD is responsible for implementing legal regulations enacted by central government and MARD and Sub-DECAFIREP is responsible for monitoring and controlling fisheries operations at the provincial level (e.g. data collection, boat registration).
Fisheries data in Vietnam is collected through a number of ways: port sampling, scientific surveys, on-board observer programs, logbooks, data collection at processing plants and socio-economic surveys. Unfortunately, these methods are not fully developed. For instance, research surveys are not conducted regularly and could potential provide crucial independent data on tuna stocks structure and dynamics. Observer programs are not established and Vietnam and could again provide important information that is currently lacking on by catch, tuna biology etc. Logbooks and port sampling are the main sources of fisheries data. The quality of this data has significantly improved for the longline/handline fishery with the WCPFC project (WPEA-OFM).