Posts Economy, Fish

In early 2000’s there was no cold-water aquaculture in Vietnam. Today, thanks to Finnish-Vietnamese cooperation, more than a hundred farms produce cold water fish for growing demand.

With over 3,000 kilometers of coastline, Vietnam has long lived from fish and other seafood, both cooked and raw. However, the traditional ways to produce fish species like carp and tilapia make them risky to eat raw, which has created a growing demand for salmon and other imported fish.

A rainbow trout farm was builded in a river next to rice fields, in Ta Phin. The woman is wearing a traditional costume of the Daos. Photo: Evira / Perttu Koski

In 2009, the demand led to founding of twelve cold-water fish farms in Northern and Central parts of the country.  In just a few years, the amount has multiplied.

This would not of course be possible without a successful development project and capacity building. Ran by Research Institute for Aquaculture No. 1 ‘s (RIA-1) unit Research Center for Cold Water Aquaculture (RCCA), Luke’s and Evira’s experience in fish and aquaculture research as well as breeding and new aquaculture technologies has been taken into good use.

“We started from scratch over ten years ago, with no real expertise in the field of cold-water aquaculture. Luke’s experience in mild weather conditions, fish farming and selective breeding has been essential in bringing us where we now are”, says Ms. Tran Thi Kim Chi, Head of Aquaculture Environment and Disease Unit of RCCA.

Traditional fish farming has evolved to new recirculation aquaculture systems (RAS), and computerized data acquisition devices help to control the breeding conditions. RAS technology is considered more environmentally friendly than traditional methods, but it is not a fast lane to success.

“Rainbow trout is a new cold-water fish in Vietnam, so there is still a lot of research to be done in order to develop its sustainable production.”

A noble fish

Young rainbow trouts are taking a bath to prevent parasitic infections at the Thac Bac farm. Photo: Evira / Perttu Koski.

The fish swimming in the Vietnamese tanks are of Finnish origin. Rainbow trout stream called JALO (noble in Finnish) has been selectively bred in Finland for over twenty years and has proven to be an excellent grower.

“According to our research, JALO is currently growing 50% faster and with 15% less feed than the base population”, Tran says.

Selective breeding of farmed fish improves the profitability of the aquaculture business and the quality of the fish. The faster the fish grow and the stronger is their resistance to diseases, the better income they will bring to the farmer.

”Aquaculture could be seen as a process which consists of several modules: high-quality egg production, breeding, and the knowhow and technology of the actual aquaculture system”, says Senior Scientist and expert in rainbow trout breeding, Mr. Harri Vehviläinen from Luke.

“You can’t be successful and support sustainability if there is lack of expertise in any of the modules.”

Jobs and wellbeing

Water starts to flow into a new rainbow trout pool bringing jobs to these Hmong boys’ families. Photo: Evira / Perttu Koski.

Ten years of cooperation has not only brought impressive results in terms of research and development but also laid a base for an entirely new industry sector in Vietnam.

“It has been estimated that cold-water fish farming now employs 10,000–15,000 people in Vietnam directly or indirectly, and the number is growing”, says Vehviläinen.

New way of living has been particularly important for ethnic minorities who live in the mountains of northern Vietnam.

“Inland aquaculture has had a great impact on creating jobs for Mongs and Daos and helped them to increase their income”, Tran says.

“Rainbow trout is a luxury product in Vietnam, and a farmer can get up to 20 euro per kilo of fish when sold directly to a restaurant.”

Self-sufficiency in 2030

The fish farms produce approximately two million kilos of rainbow trout annually. It may sound like a lot, but the amount satisfies only half of the rapidly growing demand in a country of 95 million people.

“Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set a goal increase the amount of farms and their productivity remarkably in the coming years to meet domestic need of cold-water fish entirely by 2030”, Tran says.

“By then we should also be self-sufficient in egg and feed production – and hopefully we will have enough cold-water fish products for export, too.”

To reach the ambitious goals, RCCA will soon develop long- and short-term development strategies in collaboration with international partners, such as Luke.

“Step by step, we will improve the farming techniques, breeding, environmental monitoring and disease control, and train our people in order to develop the entire aquaculture industry sustainably.”

“We have come a long way since early-2000’s but there is still a lot to do and learn. But it will definitely be an interesting journey.”

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