Vietnam Mixed Bottom Fish Better Fishing Practice Initiative (BFPI) Completes First Onboard Observer Trip

Conclusions Bring Focus on the Need for a Full Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) for the Fishery

August 8, 2013. La Gi, Binh Thuan Province, Vietnam – After a grueling 28 days at sea, battling near-typhoon conditions keeping the vessel from the prime fishing grounds, volunteer community Onboard Observer Pham Van Chau has completed the first onboard observer trip ever for the La Gi Mixed Bottom Fish Handline Fishery BFPI.

This first trip resulted in surprising number of lessons learned and gave rise to real concern about management of the fishery, especially in the southern sector designated as “Area 1” by the BFPI.


Scarlet snapper is marked with traceability tag inside its protective plastic cover. The large reel of anchor line allows the vessel to fish at depths up to 300 meters


A Mixed Bag with Surprises

 The catch of mixed bottom fish contained a lot more variety than expected, with most of the catch consisting of bottom fish not valued for export to the US but for other export markets in Europe, Asia or the thriving Vietnamese market.

A summary of the catch:

Mixed Bottom Fish

3,800 Kilos of Sea Catfish (Arias species)
666 Kilos of snapper including 166 from 2 of the commercial species listed in the BFPI
500 Kilos of grouper, 6 species
    13 Kilos of Cobia
4,979 Kilos total

The trip was actually targeting the sea catfish as this gets a good price for some exporters, although not for the US market. The weather was too bad for the vessel to enter “Area 2” of the BFPI and the more abundant commercial snapper grounds.


The majority of bottom fish caught were sea catfish

 3 Scarlet and Goldband snapper marked with tail ribbons and logo tags for Traceability (arrows)


 Snapper catch being unloaded


Catch Area

The catch area was in a section of the South China Sea due south of La Gi noted for oilfields, shoals and seamounts. See the marine chart below:


Blue dot is start point and yellow the end point of fishing activity for the trip


The Key to Data Collection is the Unloading Port

 The observer collected length and weight data onboard on samples of the BFPI-listed fish landed. Complete landing data was collected in the port by interviewing the vessel’s commercial enumerator. These commercial enumerators are usually the spouses or family members of the vessel owners and fishers and they keep exact and detailed note books for each landing. The notebooks contain the exact number and total weight of all retained catch, in detail, by species.

Like similar bottom-fish fisheries in Hawaii and the Caribbean, the unloading port, and the commercial enumeration already ongoing there for years, is the key to collecting catch data for this fishery.


Enumerators at work

Pelagics Raise Concerns and Opportunities

To supplement the income for the vessel floated handlines were also used to target pelagic species. These consisted of mixed billfish and sharks. This retained catch may have significant environmental effects and needs top be monitored and managed as the BFPI goes towards full FIP soon.


More than 800 kilos of shark and 500 kilos of mixed billfish were landed

Traceability System Tested and Scientific Data Collected

 Using plastic tags with the “Lagi Handline” Logo the commercial snappers are readily traceable from the vessel to the processing factory. At the factory in Nha Trang QC technicians trained by BFPI assistant and Marine Biology student Emmy Wassenius were able to successfully identify the sex and state of sexual maturity of representative samples of the commercial bottom fish species from the trip.

The project will seek the cooperation of the 3 major exporters buying La Gi bottom fish to help in gathering scientific data on the fishery.


BFPI Assistant trains factory staff state of sexual maturity identification


A typical mature male gonad in a goldband snapper from the observer trip

Conclusions for Management Planning and FIP Pre-Assessment

The BFPi will complete 4 more observer trips before the end of September and continually improve the catch and scientific data collection as well as fishery location and effort data. Data can be collected from this fishery and an effective management plan developed as long as all stakeholders continue to cooperate and benefit from the effort.

We at Sea Delight believe the next step is move towards Pre-Assessment of the fishery before the end of 2013 and then on to a full FIP soon after.


Thanks to the fishing community of La Gi