References Economy, Fish

In early 2000’s there was no cold-water aquaculture in Vietnam. Today, thanks to Finnish-Vietnamese cooperation, hundreds of farms produce millions of kilos of cold water fish for growing demand.

With over 3,000 kilometers of coastline, Vietnam has long history of fish and other seafood utilization, also raw. However, the traditional ways of production of fish species like carp and tilapia make them risky to eat raw, which has created a growing demand for salmon and other imported fish. In 2009, the demand led to founding of twelve cold-water fish farms in Northern and Central parts of the country. In roughly ten years, the amount has multiplied tenfold.

Luke’s experience in weather conditions, fish farming and selective breeding has been essential.

The progress would not have 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), the project took Luke’s experience in fish and aquaculture research into good use.

“We started from scratch with no real expertise in 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.

A noble fish

Also the fish swimming in the Vietnamese tanks are of Finnish origin. Rainbow trout selection line called JALO (noble in Finnish) has been selectively bred in Finland for over twenty years and has proven to be an excellent grower. In comparison with Chinese and American rivals, it performed best in Vietnamese field test.

Selective breeding of farmed fish improves the profitability of the aquaculture business and the quality of the fish. The faster the fish grow with efficient use of feed, and the stronger their resistance to diseases is, 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 Luke’s Senior Scientist and expert in rainbow trout breeding Harri Vehviläinen.

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

Cold-water fish farming employs 10,000–15,000 people in Vietnam.

Jobs and wellbeing

Ten years of cooperation has not only brought impressive results in terms of research and development but also provided a basis 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 H’mongs and Daos and helped them to increase their income”, Chi 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.”

Entire value chain under development to support a growing industry

The latest development in the long-term cooperation has been scaling-up the capacity building from primary production to whole cold water aquaculture value chain. Led by Finnish Food Authority, the project aims at creation of sustainable inclusive quality chain of cold water aquaculture by improving the quality of the fish management and end-product from production to storage and, eventually, in restaurants and on customers’ plates. This includes, for example, minimizing the antibiotics residue and ensuring the cold chain from fish farm to fork.

Health security is of essence, as Vietnam wants to satisfy the growing demand of 97 million people for locally farmed rainbow trout.

“Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development has set a goal to 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 Thi Kim Chi 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.”

Cold-water fish farm in a river next to rice farms in Ta Phin, Vietnam.
One of the rainbow trout farms was built in river next to rice fields in Ta Phin. Photo: Perttu Koski / Finnish Food Authority.