More than half of Vietnam’s population is employed in the agricultural, forestry and fishery industries.
Vietnamese fisheries, the life-blood of many families in Vietnam, are at risk of being overexploited under the current open access regime being used by many in the South East Asian nation.
The co-management of fisheries is a potential solution and has taken the interest of many Vietnamese PhD researchers attending Australian universities.
Hoang Viet Thang, a PhD student from The University of Queensland, is researching co-management policies in Vietnam.
“Co-management refers to a management strategy in which the governments and fishing communities share management responsibilities,” Mr Thang says.
Mr Thang believes that the relatively new concept of co-management is key to ensuring the sustainability of fisheries in Vietnam.
“The fisheries industry is related closely to poverty alleviation in Vietnam and there are a large number of coastal poor people depending on fishing as their main source of livelihood,” Mr Thang says.
Tam Giang lagoon in Hue is one of the largest fishing lagoons in South East Asia and is vital to the livelihoods of many families in Vietnamese fishery communities.
Head of the fishery association in Mai Gia Phuong village in Tam Giang lagoon, Pham Van Loi, is passionate about improving the lives of the fishermen in his community.
“Co-management means that fishermen can improve their livelihoods, they can get more benefits from the fishing activities,” Mr Loi says.
“This makes the fishery association’s fund bigger, we use these funds to buy boats and electric lights for the people to use.”
According to Mr Loi, co-management in Tam Giang lagoon has improved the lives of many families in his village.
“The houses here are much better than in the past because the livelihoods of the fishermen are improving,” Mr Loi says.
“People can invest in the future.
“They can take their children to school, build new houses, they can earn more money.”
Mr Loi has been leading the fishery association in his community for over ten years and says that the co-management model in Tam Giang has three main goals.
“Firstly the fishermen are working together to ban illegal fishing activity in this lagoon, like electrocuting the fish, they also teach each other to practice fishing methods that are better for the lagoon,” Mr Loi says.
“We also use micro-finance so that people can borrow money from the fishery association and use it to invest in their businesses.”
Mr Loi says he is hoping to develop more eco-tourism opportunities in his the lagoon offering fishing tours and home stays in Mai Gia Phuong village.
Mr Hoang Dung Ha from the Hue University of Agriculture and Forestry agrees that a combined system of management by both members of fishing communities and local governments is vital to ensuring environmental and economic sustainability in Vietnam.
“Co-management is the model that aims to make members of the fishery community and the local government sit down together and begin dialogue,” Mr Ha says.
“The natural resources are better than in the past and the income of the people in fishery communities in Tam Giang has improved.”
Mr Ha helped establish the co-management model in Tam Giang in 2008 and says the concept of co-management is spreading.
“When we established the co-management model in Tam Giang many people and from around Vietnam came here to learn how to organise a co-management model, how to combine the fishery community with the local authorities,” Mr Ha says.
“Now I think many places from the north to the south of Vietnam will start using the co-management model.”
The successful co-management of fisheries could mean poverty alleviation and environmental sustainability for many areas in Vietnam.
According to researchers, academics and fishery communities alike, this makes it an exciting prospect for the country and one worth developing.