Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Pangasius bocourti & Pangasius hypophthalmus

Method of production — Farmed
Production country — Vietnam
Production method — Ponds
Picture of Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Updated: October 2020.

Pangasius that are not farmed to any environmental production standards cannot be verified to address a number of issues of environmental concern, due to the lack of auditing of which requires farm inspections to check compliance against production standard criteria. In general there are a number of issues of concern associated with production, these include: habitat alteration; nutrient and organic pollution; escapes; interactions with local wildlife and enforcement of regulations. The Vietnamese government have introduced the VietGAP standard to serve as a bridge to lead Vietnamese pangasius enterprises and farmers to the certification of other internationally-recognised standards such as GLOBALG.A.P. and ASC. Pangasius is a an omnivore and as such is not heavily reliant on marine proteins and oils to form part of its diet, however the fish used to produce the feed is currently not certified as being responsibly managed or sustainable. It is only by sourcing certified pangasius that you can be assured that the issues of critical environmental concern are being addressed.

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. There is little information available on traceability in feed and sourcing of fish meal and fish oil in south east Asia (including Vietnam) typically includes high levels of imported or domestic ‘trash fish’ which are unidentifiable. However, 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, which may contribute towards future food security.

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Environmental Impacts

Criterion score: -7.

Pangasius aquaculture in Vietnam has a large environmental impact. Habitat alteration has taken place 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.

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. 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. However, it has been suggested that this practice is nearly impossible in reality and that less than 10% of farms have sedimentation ponds.

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. 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.

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: -1.

There is a lack of data available on comprehensive welfare standards for farmed pangasius in Vietnam and the method of slaughter is not known. The VietGAP standard includes disinfection procedures, fallowing periods, maximum transportation time and water quality testing. However, there is not thought to be adequate criteria to cover animal welfare.

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Management

Criterion score: 3.

This assessment covers all uncertified pangasius production in Vietnam, however, as the Vietnamese Government has committed to 3rd party certification of all pangasius farms and has developed the VietGAP program as a stepping stone towards this, this has been recognised in the assessment. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) in Vietnam is also underway in 8 coastal provinces in Vietnam and was incorporated in Vietnam’s Law of Planning in January 2018.

In Vietnam, there are regulations 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. However, these are thought to only be partially effective. In particular, it is thought that the use of chemicals is not being effectively regulated and they are being misused. It is also thought illegal dumping of that waste sludge is taking place.

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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

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].