Pilot application of electronic catch documentation and traceability (25-12-2020)

In December 16 and 17, 2020, in Nha Trang City, Khanh Hoa Province, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) coordinated with the US Embassy to hold a national workshop on introduction of a program of electronic catch documentation and traceability of fisheries products. The workshop was taken place in an online form. Mr. Nguyen Quang Hung, Deputy Director General of Directorate of Fisheries (D-Fish) and Mr Thomas Huston Lyons, the US Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL), the Embassy of the United States to Vietnam presided over the workshop.
Pilot application of electronic catch documentation and traceability

Being present at the worshop were representatives from the US Embassy to Vietnam, D-Fish, Department of International Cooperation (under MARD), international organizations. Local delegates attending the workshop were from  Sub-Departments of Fisheries, Management Board of fishing ports of coastal provinces/cities, seafood processing and exporting establishments.

Speaking at the workshop, Mr. Thomas Huston Lyons highly appreciated cooperation between Vietnam and the United States in the past 25 years of normalizing diplomatic relations. With a coastline of more than 3,000 km, Vietnam has great potentials and advantages in development of the marine economy in general and development of fisheries in particular. The United States also highly appreciated Vietnam's efforts to modernize fisheries sector in order to develop the sector in the direction of sustainability, transparence and responsibility. He emphasized that Vietnam’s Government agencies were determined on removing the warning of the European Commission (EC) by completing legal framework, strictly handling violations of fishing vessels in illegal, un-reported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. The fisheries sector has played an important role in socio-economic development and contributed more than 3% of Vietnam's GDP, creating milions of jobs for people.

However, nowadays, illegal fishing is a hot topic in the region and globally. Vietnam was warned by yellow card of the European Commission's (EC) for catches exported. Vietnam's marine capture fisheries has had shortcomings in management and not fully met regulations of export markets.

A system of electronic catch documentation and traceability is now a new technology of combating effectively against IUU fishing to demonstrate transparent traceability of fisheries in the production chain. This is also one of the requirements that the US has pursued to make transparency and responsibility. Currently, the United States is implementing the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) to control illegal seafood products exported to US market, Mr Lyons confirmed. Therefore, the US Embassy suggested that Vietnam should take measures soon to improve transparence and responsibility in its fishing activities and to prevent IUU fishing.

According to report of Department of Capture Fisheries under D-Fish, a fishing logbook, which was classified by a group of vessels and fishing methods with difference of noting and reporting, was defined in the Fisheries Law in 2003. The new Fisheries Law in 2017 specifies regulations on management of traceability of fisheries to control strictly fisheries products by the chain. Recently, participating actively in regulations of international organizations of fisheries, Vietnam has updated promptly, completed, supplemented and integrated regulations of exporting markets in the legal framework towards transparent, consistent, effective and responsible management. Catch documentation and traceability of fisheries is considered as one of the important contents to trace products to manage fisheries in a modern direction in accordance with the world's fisheries management. It can be said that basically, the current legal framework of Vietnam is sufficient and the Law of Fisheries has strictly enforced in practice.

D-Fish has been piloting an upgraded software of electronic catch documentation system for certificating the catch at two provinces of Ba Ria - Vung Tau and Khanh Hoa. The software was built to serve the entities in a process of seafood traceability management, including D-Fish, Provincial Fisheries sub-Departments, Management Board of fishing ports, Representative Offices, processing and export establishments and fishing vessels. All stages of catch documentation and traceability are digitized, including license, export, import  warning of missing information according to import and export regulations, logbook, location of fishing vessels, catch statistics, etc, through applications on smartphones.

However, during a process of deploying software applications, there has still been many difficulties. Many people do not have opportunities to own smartphone. Change on fishermen's habit of using software is required a long timeline. A level of fishermen's awareness also limits their access to applications. Because of limited resources for implementation, application of software will cost fishermen. Vietnam’s capture fisheries are multi-species fisheries that are difficult to control yjr catch by every species. In the coming time, it is necessary to pilot application of the software in single-species fisheries such as longlines or hook and line, and purse seines. Along with that, it is needed to complete the legal framework on the use of electronic traceability system.

Participants agreed that building a national system of electronic catch documentation and traceability is the inevitable trend in fisheries management towards modernity, sustainability, transparency and responsibility in accordance with requirements of markets. Besides completion of the legal framework, appropriate roadmap of implementation needs to be planned. Training on pilot operation of the system for people related to a process of seafood traceability management. Results of pilot application of the system will be reviewed and completed for issuing regulations those are mandatory to use of electronic catch documentation and traceability system.

Concluding the workshop, Mr. Nguyen Quang Hung, Deputy Director General of D-Fish, affirmed that in the context of making efforts to overcome the EC's yellow card for exported seafood products and the Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) as well as requirements of markets of Vietnam, application of electronic catch documentation and traceability is one of the important targets for Vietnam's fisheries sector. Therefore, in oerder to implement effectively electronic traceability of the catches, it is necessary to study and complete the legal framework to build a comprehensive national system of electronic catch documentation and traceability in the entire fishing chain. In the coming time, he required related agencies need to coordinate in building appropriate implementation plans. Based on results of the pilot implementation of electronic traceability at locals for tuna fisheries, so that it can be completed and deployed synchronously in the whole country./.

Nam Anh

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