Seeking way out for tuna fishing industry

The tuna fishing industry brings quite high commercial value, exporting to 100 countries worldwide, especially the US, Japan, and the EU. However, amid many new challenges from fishing ground and price, the tuna fishing industry in Vietnam is facing many difficulties.
Seeking way out for tuna fishing industry ảnh 1 South Central Coast fishers catch tuna by traditional methods. (Photo: SGGP)
Cheap price, decreasing output

At the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, major fishing ports in the Central coastal provinces of Binh Dinh and Phu Yen were vibrant, with many tuna fishing vessels returning to shore. However, according to fishermen, tuna production was on the decline. At Tam Quan Bac Estuary in Hoai Nhon Town of Binh Dinh Province, three years ago, tuna fishing boats easily harvested 2.5-4 tons per trip of 15-20 days, earning an average profit of VND200 million-VND300 million. However, tuna production has been reduced to only 300-400kg per trip in recent years. Tam Quan Bac tuna fishing fleet from 1,000 vessels is decreasing. Some fishing vessels are staying ashore or changing jobs.

Huynh Thien, 44, a fisherman in Thien Chanh 2 Village in Tam Quan Bac Commune, said that tuna production had  been gradually dropping, and the fishing ground also shrunk. Fishing boats fell into difficulties due to the high fishing frequency, massive development of fishing vessels, and destructive fishing. In addition, in the past ten years, tuna price has increased extremely slowly, while that of gasoline, raw materials, and costs have continuously climbed high.

According to tuna hunters, the spawning cycle of tuna occurs from the fourth to the sixth month in the lunar calendar, about 110 nautical miles back to shore. It takes many years for tuna to grow big enough for catching and export (15-30kg). However, when tunas are not big enough, they are caught by dredge and trawl fishing.

Organizing auctions, creating chain of links

Vietnam has more than 3,600 tuna fishing vessels with about 35,000 workers, mainly in Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, and Khanh Hoa provinces, with an output of about 20,000-35,000 tons per year. Among these, Binh Dinh is the locality with the highest tuna fishing output in the country, over 11,000 tons per year. Since 2014, this province has cooperated with many representatives in Japan to transfer technology and equipment for fishing and preserving to local fishers. Binh Dinh Seafood Joint Stock Company and Kato Hitoshi General Office Co., Ltd (Japan) cooperated to export tuna to Japan. However, the cooperation has not been as effective as expected because of the high cost of transportation and long storage, not ensuring the quality of fish to compete at the Japanese auction market.

Recently, the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Binh Dinh cooperated with another Japanese enterprise headquartered in Khanh Hoa Province to continue launching the project "linking chain of production and consumption of Binh Dinh tuna". Enterprises commit to buying tunas for fishers at higher prices than the market from VND2,000-VND15,000 per kg, depending on the type.

Dr. Tran Van Vinh, Deputy Director of Binh Dinh Fisheries Department, said that fishers mainly catch two groups of tuna, including bigeye tuna, yellowfin tuna, and bluefin tuna, weighing from ten to a few hundred kilograms; frigate tuna weighing from 3kg to 5kg. However, up to now, the potential of tuna groups has not been fully exploited to create a chain of links from fishing, processing, and export to increase value. Therefore, according to Dr. Tran Van Vinh, Vietnam needs tuna auctions to gradually change the fishing perception of fishers and businesses.

According to Mr. Pham Dai Duong, Secretary of the Party Committee of Phu Yen Province, the fishing and preservation methods of Phu Yen fishers remains primitive, so the product quality does not reach the required standards, making it difficult to compete in the market, which leads to a much lower tuna price than the global one. Realizing this weakness, since many years ago, Phu Yen has sought opportunities to cooperate with Japanese enterprises.

Recently, Phu Yen Province reached an initial agreement with Kiyomura Group on cooperation in seafood development, sharing and exchanging experiences, transferring technology in catching, preserving, marketing, and cooperating in exporting tuna to Japan. The province hopes that through cooperation, there will be tuna auctions in this province in the future.

According to the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers, in late 2021, despite the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, Vietnam's tuna exports grew fairly well in the US, Spain, Japan, and the EU markets. The total export value of tuna in 2021 exceeded US$759 million, up 17 percent compared to 2020.

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