Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Pangasius bocourti & Pangasius hypophthalmus

Method of production — Farmed
Production country — Vietnam
Production method — Ponds
Certification — Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practice (GAA BAP) 3*
Picture of Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: October 2020.

The GAA BAP 3* certification addresses a number of issues of environmental concern in pangasius farming, the auditing of which requires farm inspections and standard criteria enforcement, however, the standard does not cover all aspects of environmental concern and allows the lethal control of predators to take place. There are a number of issues of environmental concern associated with pangasius production, these include: habitat alteration; freshwater impacts; nutrient and organic pollution; escapes; interactions with local wildlife and enforcement of regulations. The GAA BAP 3* standard has criteria in place to ensure there is adequate animal welfare and humane slaughter. Pangasius is 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.

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: 0.

All farmed Pangasius rely on feed inputs and the use of commercial pangasius aquafeed in countries such as Vietnam is the norm. The GAA BAP aquaculture standard requires ingredients used in feed to be traceable to species level. However, criteria for the sustainable content of the feed are lacking and the GAA BAP standard does not have a supply chain policy in place to ensure the responsible sourcing of fishmeal, soy and palm.

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: -2.

Pangasius have a number of environmental issues associated with their production. The GAA BAP standard mitigates some of these issues. Habitat alteration takes 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 GAA BAP standard requires water levels in nearby wells to be monitored at least annually during the dry season and the use of water from natural sources to not cause ecological damage.

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 GAA BAP standard limits 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. In addition, the GAA BAP certification criteria requires farms to monitor their effluents to limit nitrogen and phosphorus to specific levels to reduce the impact on the environment.

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 GAA BAP standard that requires screens and nets to be installed and all holding, transport and culture systems to be designed operated and maintained to minimize the release of animals. 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.

The GAA BAP aquaculture standard outlines practices that are in place to ensure animal welfare and humane slaughter of pangasius. This includes a maximum biomass limit, regular inspections, and management practices to avoid stress. Humane slaughter practices are also in place.

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Management

Criterion score: 5.

This assessment covers all GAA BAP 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 GAA BAP 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 Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) certification programme comprises a suite of standards for farms, hatcheries, feed mills and processing plants addressing environmental and social issues, food safety and animal welfare. Benchmarked to GSSI and GFSI and with star ratings (1-4), it uses independent audits to provide assurance along the supply chain.

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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. Availableat http://www.fao.org/fishery/legalframework/nalo_vietnam/en#tcNB00A5 [Accessed on 15.05.2020].

Global Aquaculture Alliance Best Aquaculture Practices. 2017. Aquaculture Facility Certification. Finfish and Crustacean Farms. Issue 2.4 – 23-May-2017. Available at https://www.bapcertification.org/Downloadables/pdf/standards/PI%20-%20Standard%20-%20Finfish%20and%20Crustacean%20Farms%20%E2%80%93%20Issue%202.4%20%E2%80%93%2023-May-2017.pdf [Accessed on 20.10.20].

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].