Fish Welfare Scoping Report: Vietnam

By Haven King-Nobles, Thomas Billington, Jennifer-Justine Kirsch, and ​Trang Đặng

Although roughly 100 billion farmed fish are slaughtered annually, little has been done regarding their welfare. Fish Welfare Initiative aims to improve the welfare of farmed fish by working collaboratively with industry and NGO partners. We also believe in not limiting our scope to Western countries, but rather in focusing on the regions of the world that have the greatest potential for impact, wherever those may be.

One such country we examined is Vietnam. In this report, we outline the various fish aquaculture systems used in Vietnam and assess the potential for work to promote higher welfare. Our main findings are as follows:

  • Production and species:​ Vietnam is the 5th largest producer of farmed fish globally. The main finfish group farmed in Vietnam is Pangasius (a genus of shark catfish), which comprises 47% of Vietnamese finfish production. Pangasius are primarily farmed in intensive pond culture and cage culture, which are highly concentrated in the Mekong River Delta Region. Vietnam produces the vast majority of globally-exported Pangasius.

  • Welfare improvements:​ The most promising welfare interventions in Vietnam seem to be working with European importers of Pangasius to mandate improved water quality, shorter and less stressful transportation routines, and pre-slaughter stunning (although optimal Pangasius stunning parameters still need to be developed).

  • Small-scale aquaculture and wet markets:​ While the Vietnamese aquaculture industry is increasingly vertically integrated, 75% of producers still operate on farms of less than 3 hectares in size. These systems tend to be more extensive, and pose different welfare challenges (such as a lack of monitoring of environmental conditions). Most fish produced in small-scale aquaculture are sold (often live) in wet markets, which is highly detrimental to fish welfare.

  • Logistical and other bottlenecks:​ It is a long and difficult process to register a non-profit organization in Vietnam. Public attitudes on animal welfare (and particularly regarding fish) are not very progressive, given that animal welfare itself is a relatively new topic in Vietnam.

  • Messaging:​ Work promoting fish welfare will be more likely to succeed if coupled with initiatives to improve product quality, business resilience, and sustainability.

We encourage any organization or industry interested in promoting fish welfare in Vietnam to ​contact us.​ We are available to provide consulting, training in fish welfare improvements, and access to funding.