Vietnam Prepares to Launch First Seafood Traceability Pilot, Leveraging USAID Oceans and SEAFDEC’s Regional Technologies and Lessons Learned
Seafood is a major export product of Vietnam with its tuna products exported to 96 nations and territories across the world, including the United States, Canada, Japan, and Thailand, among others. As a major supplier, advancing seafood traceability and promoting sustainable fisheries management is therefore of vital importance to the country’s fisheries sector to maintain its standards, comply with international requirements, as well as combat global illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.
Since the launch of the Oceans and Fisheries Partnership (USAID Oceans) in 2015, the program and its partner, the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC), have been working in collaboration with the Vietnam Directorate of Fisheries (D-Fish) to enhance traceability systems in Vietnam. In 2017 and 2018, the partners worked together to complete a Catch Documentation and Traceability (CDT) Gap Analysis, assessing the opportunities, challenges, and strategies to be used towards implementing an effective and robust electronic catch documentation and traceability (eCDT) system that also supports sustainable fisheries management, human welfare and gender equity. Following the completion of the analysis, USAID Oceans, SEAFDEC, and D-Fish have been working to launch an eCDT pilot to guide the country’s journey to “bait to plate” traceability. The pilot draws from both USAID Oceans and SEAFDEC’s experiences in implementing eCDT technology across Southeast Asia, amalgamating technology advances and practical implementation knowledge.
With a range of eCDT technology available, the partners have worked together to consider traceability solutions, which have included USAID Oceans-developed and supported traceability technology, as well as the electronic ASEAN Catch Documentation Scheme (eACDS), developed by SEAFDEC as a tool for combating IUU fishing and enhancing international and intra-regional trade of fish and fisheries products from the ASEAN Member States. The eACDS enables data capture across the supply chain to collect Key Data Elements (KDEs) through web and mobile-based database modules, which are customizable to meet the specifications of each member country.
In 2019, the partners have conducted several field visits to Binh Thanh province, an area designated for piloting Vietnam’s first eCDT system, to recruit First Mover industry partners to take part in the eCDT pilot, as well as discuss and finalize a set of recommended KDEs with relevant stakeholders and actors across the entire supply chain. The KDEs, agreed upon by both government and industry members, have been used to customize the eACDS modules to be used in the pilot, which will enable the First Movers to capture data along the supply chain. SEAFDEC and USAID Oceans have supported pilot planning and preparations through technical advisement, in-field coordination support between public and private sector members, and eACDS software customization.
In September, D-FISH will officially begin piloting its eCDT system, using SEAFDEC’s customized eACDS modules. The initial pilot, focused on tuna production in Binh Thanh, will be rolled out to 20 medium-scale catching vessels, three (male and female) suppliers across three fishing ports, the provincial fisheries authority, and a major processing facility. Canned and frozen skipjack and bullet tuna produced through this chain supplies both local and international markets, with approximately 45% exported to the United States.
The launch of the pilot is a significant milestone that marks a transformation in Vietnam’s seafood traceability capabilities; moving from paper-based operations to an effective, robust, as well as interconnected digitized system. D-FISH, with support from USAID Oceans and SEAFDEC, is committed to leveraging the system for not only improved fisheries management, but also advancements in the human aspects of the fisheries supply chain.The technology rollout has been planned to be inclusive, supporting gender equity through the recruitment and participation of both women and men to enter and manage eCDT data. In Vietnam, women are heavily involved at port where fish is transported and traded, as well as at the processing stage.
The upcoming pilot is a strong example of the partnership and collaboration across Southeast Asia’s fisheries, as ASEAN member countries work together to apply others’ learnings and best practices to advance their own eCDT journeys. D-FISH, an active member of SEAFDEC and USAID Oceans’ Technical Working Group, has engaged closely with the program to consider technological tools, design principles and lessons learned that have come out of the partners’ regional engagements and learning sites. Looking forward, USAID Oceans and SEAFDEC will continue to work together to support and advance Vietnam’s eCDT system. In late July, the partners convened for a eCDT technology showcase in Nha Trang, Vietnam. The event provided an interactive forum to exchange knowledge and practices on traceability technology solutions between the representatives of the Vietnamese Government, SEAFDEC, USAID Oceans and its technology partners.