Pangasius in the Red list of WWF : Vietnam rejects WWF claim, says its catfish clean

Feeding at a Pangasius Farm, Mekong Delta

Feeding at a Pangasius Farm, Mekong Delta (Source: Qualasa Expertise)

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers has rejected a decision by the World Wide Fund for Nature to place tra, the Vietnamese cat fish, in the red list of produce that are farmed/made in filthy/unhygienic conditions or traded illegally.

It moved it from a yellow list in its latest consumer guides for Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, Norway, and Denmark.

The WWF highly recommends not consuming those in the red list and says that consumers can buy products from the yellow list though it is better to choose from a green list.

The green-listed products are good for health and pose no risk to the environment, while yellow-listed ones cause concern over overexploitation leading to extinction and cause harm to the environment and biodiversity.

VASEP’s letter rejecting the new classification has been sent to WWF global seafood co-coordinator Mark Powell.

The association and the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development have also invited WWF representatives to make a fact-finding tour of Vietnam’s fish farms as well as the tra processing, preservation, and export process.

The WWF has accepted the invitation and will send its representatives next May.

VASEP believed tra has been moved to the red list because of “problems” relating to the environment, feed, chemicals, and medicine used in its farming, but there is no clear evidence for any of this.

Powell told Intrafish, a news and information website meant for global seafood professionals, that the downgrading stemmed from “problems with governance.”

Catfish farming is polluting the environment by discharging untreated wastes and pesticides directly into the environment, causing the risk of spreading infectious diseases from farmed fish to wild ones, he said.

But it is unclear why the WWF has different ratings for the same products in different markets.

Before the downgrade, organic pangasius was on the green list in Germany but on both the yellow and red lists in Belgium.

WWF Vietnam said it did not contribute anything to the assessment and so knows nothing about the criteria used in the case of the pangasius, but has contacted its main office in Switzerland for details.

Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development Luong Le Phuong, calling it an inaccurate assessment of Vietnamese catfish, told Tuoi Tre it is a blow for the industry.

Most tra processing and export companies have developed quality systems from breeding to processing, he pointed out.

Many have received Global GAP certification which assesses standards for agricultural produce, including aquaculture.

It is primarily designed to reassure consumers that production of their chosen food includes minimal detrimental environmental impact and limited use of chemicals and ensures worker health and safety and animal welfare.

Vietnam exported 538,200 tons of tra to more than 120 markets, including the US and the EU, for US$1.15 billion in the first 10 months of this year.

The EU is the biggest market for Vietnamese catfish, accounting for 36.8 percent of exports and worth $423 million in the first 10 months of this year.

Fighting on many fronts

Vietnamese seafood exporters last month criticized a European parliament member who alleged that pangasius or tra is farmed in “filthy” pools and polluted rivers.

They asked Struan Stevenson of Scotland to visit farms on the Mekong River and see the breeding pools for himself, Thanh Nien newspaper reported.

In his keynote address to the European Parliament early November, Stevenson said the river where the fish are raised is one of the most polluted on earth and factories along its banks pumped thousands of tons of contaminants daily into its slow-moving waters.

“As a result, the water is teeming with bacteria and poisoned with industrial effluents including arsenic, mercury, and DDT,” Stevenson said on his website, http://www.struanstevenson.com.

In his speech, Stevenson also said imports of the cheap fish were undercutting European fish farmers and allowing multinational firms to exploit virtual “slave labor” in Vietnam.

The US catfish industry has also accused Vietnam of raising fish in unsanitary conditions.

In October the Catfish Farmers of America (CFA) began airing TV ads urging the government to transfer the responsibility of inspecting pangasius imports from the Food and Drug Administration to the Department of Agriculture.

In the ads, the CFA said the Mekong is “full of contaminants.”

In May it launched www.safecatfish.com, which attacks the sanitary quality of catfish imported from Vietnam.

It called the Mekong Delta, where the pangasius is raised, “polluted and contaminated.” Posted on the site is a new report titled “Dirty Waters, Dangerous Fish” that makes allegations about the “unsanitary” conditions in which the fish are farmed.

But the National Fisheries Institute shot back accusing the CFA of distorting the truth and scaring consumers into believing that imported catfish is unsafe to eat.

Stephen Taylor, sales director of the UK-based Findus Group, was quoted by the website fishsite.com as saying last month that catfish is a good choice for the EU consumers.

He assured the products are safe since they are imported by the most prestigious importers worldwide.

 

Source: TuoiTre News

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3 Responses to Pangasius in the Red list of WWF : Vietnam rejects WWF claim, says its catfish clean

  1. Pingback: Pangasius on RED LIST by WWF: WWF answer to VASEP « Qualasa Expertise, be part of the move…

  2. Pingback: Pangasius on the RED LIST by WWF « Qualasa Expertise, the Vietnamese Seafood News

  3. Pingback: MEP Mr Struan Stevenson learn about Pangasius farming « The Vietnamese Seafood News

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