Sustainable Mangrove Management

Sustainable Mangrove Management

Sustainable Mangrove Management Through Certified Shrimp Farming Practices in the Red River Delta

1. Background:

Mangrove ecosystems are important habitats for a great diversity of amphibians, reptiles, mammals, birds, many of which are threatened (Pham & Quan, 2005). Vietnam witnessed a significant loss of mangrove forests by about 25% in the period of 1980-2000, mainly due to aquaculture expansion (Seto & Fragkias 2007). Since 1990s, the government allowed conversion of areas, traditionally used for rice cultivation, salt production, and fallow land, to shrimp ponds (Tran et al. 2004). As a result, the area used for shrimp farming has doubled from about 250,000 ha in 2000 to more than 500,000 ha in 2003. Before the wars (1943), there were about 408,500 ha of preliminary and dense mangrove forests (Maurand 1943). However, in 2003, there were only about more than 500,000 ha of secondary and replanted mangrove forests, about 62% of which were replanted (Tran 2004).

The coastal zones of Red River Delta support a large inshore fishery based on the exploitation of shellfish, crabs, and shrimps. The viability of this fishery is dependent on the maintenance of the ecological integrity of the local mangrove forests, intertidal areas and other associated habitats. This ecosystem is further threatened by the reclamation of land for aquaculture development, which has resulted in the loss of thousands of ha of productive intertidal areas and extensive areas of mangrove forests. The destruction of mangrove forests has serious consequences for both the local and national economy as well as for wildlife, since the mangrove forests both act as a buffer preventing coastal erosion and play an important role in sustaining the productivity of the inshore fishery by providing a refuge and feeding area for many marine species of major economic importance (Pedersen & Thang, 1996). The extent of predicted aquaculture in the Red River Delta is 29,940 ha out of the total area of the Red River Delta of 15,541 km2 (Ottinger May 2017).

Specifically, a study of wetland conservation in the Thai Thuy district of Thai Binh province showed that aquaculture has increased from 2,017 ha in 2000 to 4,061 ha in 2015 (a 101% increase). Total aquaculture production in 2015 was 55,180 tons amounting to VND974.4 billion (Thai Binh Statistics Office 2016). Survey on residents of Thai Thuy district showed that the respondents agreed that the status of shrimp ponds were deteriorating. They added that the loss of mangroves due to commercial shrimp farming adversely impacts the ecosystem services it provides, and the welfare of coastal communities. The privatization of intertidal zones for aquaculture development has deprived many local people, especially poor and vulnerable households, of their rights to access common-pool resources from mangroves and intertidal mudflats.

The protection and restoration of the mangrove may provide a dual “win-win” benefit in improving the livelihood of local resource users as well as enhancing sea. In addition, an equitable benefit-sharing mechanism is needed to ensure social welfare for the mangrove-dependent communities. These issues should be integrated into shrimp culture to ensure the sustainable development, both ecologically and socially, of aquaculture sector.

The sustainability of shrimp and aquaculture can be promoted through aquaculture certification and eco-labelling schemes. Established and audited by private entities, aquaculture certification schemes such as ASC, BAP or GlobalGAP can provide credible information to the customers about the sustainability of the shrimp products which in turn increase their market values. As the consequence, aquaculture farmers and enterprises are encouraged to follow the standards of environmental protection and social responsibility, which will minimize the detrimental impacts of aquaculture on the ecosystems and promote the equitable distribution of benefits to the local communities. 

2. Objectives:

The objective of this project is to raise awareness of the adverse impacts of destruction of mangrove forest caused by commercial shrimp farming on the ecosystem services and the welfare of coastal community in their respective Thai Thuy district, Thai Binh province in the Red River Delta. Through this increasing awareness and concern, we aim to bring about alternative practices, shrimp certification that will help conserve ecosystem services and welfare to local community.

Specifically, the project objectives are:

  1. To carry out online research on current status of mangrove management and shrimp farming in Thai Thuy district as well as its impacts on ecosystem services and welfare to local communities;
  2. To produce a video about certified shrimp farming and sustainable mangrove management;
  3. To disseminate the video to local authorities and shrimp farmers through social media and workshop/meeting in Thai Thuy district, Thai Binh province.

Results of the objective (1)

Activity 1: To carry out online research on current status of mangrove management and shrimp farming in Thai Thuy district as well as its impacts on ecosystem services and welfare to local communities;

Results and outputs:

We have carried out online research to collect data and information about mangroves and shrimp farming. The data collection was conducted from November to December 2018, with the assistance of some partners such as ICAFIS and VIFEP. The outputs of the activity are the data used for video-making and communication workshop in the later activities.

Some of the major findings from the data collection are:

  • The total area of mangrove forest in Vietnam is around 209,741 ha (FIPI, 2010). Vietnam’s mangrove forests are concentrated in the provinces of Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City, Quang Ninh and the Red River delta provinces. Mangrove forests are more concentrated and developed well in the southern provinces, especially in Ca Mau Peninsula.
  • Mangrove forests have been significantly diminished for six decades. According to FIPI (2010), the area of mangrove forests are as follows:

1943: 408,500 ha;

1962: 290,000 ha;

1982: 252,000 ha;

2006: 209,741 ha.

  • Major causes of loss of mangrove forests are:
  • Aquaculture development, which causes conversion of mangrove forests to aquaculture ponds. Embankment to build aquaculture ponds also prevent the saltwater circulation, thus killing mangrove trees.
  • Natural hazards, including cyclones and storm surges, which lead to coast erosion and the uprooting of mangrove trees, especially newly planted ones.
  • Over-exploitation of timber, wood and biological resources from wetland and mangrove areas.
  • Pollution: from industrial, agricultural and domestic sources.
  • Lack of social safety net and economic marginalization, which stimulate local people to excessively extract mangrove resources for their livelihoods.
  • There should be good management mechanisms to control the loss of mangrove forests and protect environment while assuring sustainable development of aquaculture as well as income increase of coastal residents in Red River Delta and Mekong Delta.
  • Sustainable aquaculture certifications are a form of good management mechanisms that enterprises and aquaculture producers can get to raise product values in the market as well as to carry their responsibility for environment and society.
  • Shrimp farming is one of aquaculture activities that have impacts on mangrove forests and environment. Shrimp production is popular in both the North and the South Vietnam.
  • There are many enterprises getting sustainable aquaculture certifications such as BAP and ASC, as well as organic certifications such as Selva, EU Organic, and Naturland. There are also projects and programs from WWF, SNV, IUCN to support enterprises and farmers to receive sustainable aquaculture certified. However, there are no certified aquaculture farms in the North.

2. Results of the objective (2)

Activity 2: To produce a video about certified shrimp farming and sustainable mangrove management;

Results and outputs

We have finished producing a video entitled “Developing certified eco-shrimp in Vietnam”. The video was produced by Twenty Four Productions. In this video, we have interviewed Mr. Dinh Xuan Lap, Deputy Director of ICAFIS (International Collaborating Centre for Aquaculture and Fisheries Sustainability). Mr. Lap has talked about the current status of shrimp farming, the benefits and needs of organic shrimp farming with certifications as a mechanism balancing ecosystem conservation and economic development. The video incorporates images and clips about mangrove forests, shrimp ponds, and local shrimp farmers.

The video has been uploaded on several websites and social media sites:

3. Results of the objective (3)

Activity 3: Communication workshop at Thai Thuy district, Thai Binh Province

The workshop “Mangrove forest and certificated shrimp farming” was held in Thuy Truong commune, Thai Thuy district, Thai Binh province on 20th June 2018. There were about 30 participants who are the local government and local communities, including shrimp farmers and aquaculture enterprises from three different communes: Thuy Xuan, Thuy Truong, Thuy Hai.

The content of the workshop was as follows:

  • Introducing video to the participants;
  • The presentation of Dr. Phan Thi Ngoc Diep about “Shrimp certification and competitive advantages”, which provided local people with useful information relating to certificated shrimp farming combine with mangrove forest conservation. The local people has understood the importance of managing mangrove forest effectively and advantages of shrimp certification.
  • The discussion among three communes in Thuy Hai showed up the challenges and opportunities of shrimp farming in local area. After discussing, the organizers received much valuable feedback about the difficulties of local conditions to apply organic shrimp farming as well as the chances to scale up the model in Thai Binh as well in Vietnam.
  • A mini game was taken to check out the knowledge and awareness of local participants.
  • The natives could understand more about the importance of mangrove forest as well as the potentials of organic shrimp farming with certification. They were supportive and interested in combination of sustainable shrimp farming practices and sustainable mangrove forest management.
  • Website of “Vietnam Institute of Fisheries Economics and Planning”