Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Pangasius bocourti & Pangasius hypophthalmus

Method of production — Farmed
Production country — Global
Production method — Ponds
Certification — Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC)
Picture of Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: October 2020.

The ASC standard certification addresses a number of issues of environmental concern in pangasius farming, the auditing of which requires farm inspections and standard enforcement. In general there are a number of issues of potential environmental impact associated with production, these include: habitat alteration; nutrient and organic pollution; escapes; interactions with local wildlife and enforcement of regulations. The ASC standard has criteria in place for animal welfare, but not for humane slaughter. Pangasius is an omnivore and as such is not heavily reliant on marine proteins and oils to form part of its diet, and the wild caught fish used to produce the feed is responsibly sourced. However, the source of vegetable ingredients is unknown. It is only by sourcing certified pangasius that you can be assured that the issues of critical environmental concern are being addressed.

This rating is based on full compliance with certification requirements. Commercial buyers should therefore ensure that full compliance has been achieved in order for this rating to be applicable.

Feed Resources

Criterion score: 1.

All farmed Pangasius rely on feed inputs and the use of commercial pangasius aquafeed in countries such as Vietnam is the norm. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standard requires ingredients used in feed to be traceable to species level and wild-capture fish used in feed must be responsibly sourced. There is no requirement for soy products and palm oil to be sourced sustainably.

Pangasius require no fish oil and only a small amount of fishmeal in their diet and therefore, they are a net producer of protein, rather than a consumer, and this may contribute towards future food security.

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Environmental Impacts

Criterion score: -1.

Pangasius have a number of environmental issues associated with their production. The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standard mitigates some of these issues. Habitat alteration has taken place for pond production but this is not in areas of high ecological sensitivity and has generally been the conversion of intensive cropland, such as rice paddies or orchards, into ponds. There has also been a general decline in freshwater supplies in the Mekong Delta due to a combination of rising sea levels and abstraction of freshwater for both agriculture and aquaculture, including through pangasius cultivation. The ASC standard requires farms to comply with water allocation limits set by local authorities and a maximum ratio of total water abstracted per tonne of fish produced.

Pangasius farming areas in Vietnam have been identified as hot-spots for antibiotic pollution due to the high intensity of their use on farms combined with the discharge of untreated effluents. The rapid development of pangasius production has also preceded the development for regulations of the use of chemicals. The ASC standard has strict requirements on the use of chemicals, including a ban on the use of antibiotics critical to human health. According to national legislation, farmers are banned form dumping sludge into waterways and every farmer must set aside part of the farm site for treating wastewater before discharge. In addition, the ASC standard has limits on the amount of nutrients and dissolved oxygen that can be discharged into a receiving water body.

Juvenile pangasius are entirely hatchery based and no cleaner fish are used. In pangasius aquaculture, escapes can occur, however, data is lacking and the primary prevention method for interactions with wild populations is to reduce the genetic performance of farmed fish in the wild, which is reported to be effective. Escapes are also limited by criteria outlined in the ASC standard that includes regular inspections of gear, sufficient bund height to prevent water spillage along with escapes and the presence of trapping devices placed in effluent canals or water outlets to capture escapes. Data on predation rates and industry losses due to predation are currently not available for pangasius farming in the Mekong Delta, however, the instances of wildlife/predator mortalities are thought to be low. Species that may be targeted as nuisance predators are more than likely to be species common in the region, such as cormorants, and to some extent, reptilian species such as monitor lizards. Lethal control of predators is not allowed in the ASC standard.

Pangasius is subject to a range of diseases including parasites. The impact of parasite transfer to wild populations is unknown and there is little data available. It has been suggested that where wild fish occur in low-densities, it will be difficult for parasitic populations to persist. Pathogenic disease outbreaks also occur but are not thought to threaten regional level operations. Little evidence is available to claim that disease episodes have increased or significantly impacted upon wild populations as a direct result of pangasius aquaculture. Edwardsiella ictulari is the most commercially serious and frequently occurs in fish of all ages. Around 70% of production sites suffer at least one outbreak of E. ictulari infection during a production cycle.

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Fish Health and Welfare

Criterion score: 0.

In the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) Pangasius standard, there are criteria in place to ensure animal welfare, such as a minimum average growth rate and a maximum fish density at any time for ponds, pens and cages. However, there is no criteria in place for humane slaughter.

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Management

Criterion score: 5.

This assessment covers all Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) certified pangasius production in Vietnam. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is underway in 8 coastal provinces in Vietnam and was incorporated into Vietnam’s Law of Planning in January 2018.

The ASC standard has criteria in place that cover Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), identification and protection of valuable habitats and species, use of land and water resources, use of chemicals including licensing, discharges including effluents and their impacts, biosecurity and disease management, and species introduction. These criteria are thought to be fully effective is minimizing negative environmental impacts.


The ASC standards cover the main environmental and social impacts of aquaculture, including fish health, feed and fair employment conditions, by setting metric-based indicators. Farms are assessed annually by external auditors and results published. ASC products are traceable throughout the supply chain. ASC is the only ISEAL compliant aquaculture certification scheme.

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Production method

Ponds

Farming in open net pens in river systems allows for interaction with the surrounding environment and, as such, has to be managed in such a way as to minimise negative environmental and ecological impacts.

Alternatives

Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Spurdog, Spiny Dogfish, Dogfish, Rock Salmon or Flake
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia

Biology

The group of freshwater fish known as catfish are captured from the wild or farmed for food and displayed in public aquaria dependant on the species. This farmed species natural habitat is medium to large rivers in Asian countries such as Vietnam, where they can grow up to 44kg.There are omnivores, feeding on a diet of other fish, vegetable matter and crustaceans. Pangasius bocourti is one of the most important farmed species in Vietnam.

References

Aquaculture Stewardship Council. 2016. Interim solution on Marine Raw Material Requirements in the ASC Farm Standards. Available at https://www.asc-aqua.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/ASC-Feed-Interim-solution-Marine-Ingredients_Final.pdf [Accessed on 22.09.2020].

Aquaculture Stewardship Council. 2019. ASC Pangasius Standard. Version 1.2 – June 2019. Available at https://www.asc-aqua.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/ASC-Pangasius-Standard_v1.2_Final.pdf [Accessed on 22.09.2020].

CBI. 2018. Exporting pangasius to Europe. Available at https://www.cbi.eu/market-information/fish-seafood/pangasius/europe [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

de Silva, S. S. and Phuong, N. T. 2011. Striped catfish farming in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam: a tumultuous path to a global success. Reviews in Aquaculture. 3, pp. 45-73.

Dung, T. T., Ngoc, N. T. N., Thinh, N.Q., Thy, D. T. M., Tuan, N. A., Shinn, A. and Crumlish, M. 2008. Common diseases of Pangasius catfish farmed in Viet Nam. Global Aquaculture Advocate, 11:77-78.

FAO. 2010. Pangasius hypopthalmus (Sauvage, 1878). Available at http://www.fao.org/fishery/culturedspecies/Pangasius_hypophthalmus/en [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

FAO. 2014. National Aquaculture Legislation Overview: Vietnam. Available at http://www.fao.org/fishery/legalframework/nalo_vietnam/en#tcNB00A5 [Accessed on 15.05.2020].

Kurath, G. and Winton, J. 2011. Complex dynamics at the interface between wild and domestic viruses of finfish. Current Opinions in Virology, 1:73-80.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. 2014. Pangasius. Vietnam. Production System – Ponds. Available at https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/reports/c/mba_seafoodwatch_catfish_vietnam_report.pdf [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

Nguyen, T. A. T. and Jolly, C. M. 2020. Global value chain and food safety and quality standards of Vietnam pangasius exports. Aquaculture reports 16(100256). Available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.aqrep.2019.100256 [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

Quyen, N. T. K., Hien, H. V., Khoi, L. N. D., Yogi, N. and Riple, A. K. L. 2020. Quality Management Practices of Intensive WHiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) Farming: A Study of the Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Sustainability.

Seafish. 2019. Pangasius – Pangasianodon hypophthalmus. Available at https://seafish.org/aquaculture-profiles/profiles/pangasius/ [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

Seafood Source. 2014. Vietnamese pangasius farms make sustainability commitment. Available at https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/aquaculture/vietnamese-pangasius-farms-to-meet-asc-standard-equivalent [Accessed on 10.08.2020].

UNESCO. 2020. MSP Around the Globe. Available at http://msp.ioc-unesco.org/world-applications/overview/ [15.09.2020].