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A new Vietnam shrimp commitment to bring 20,000 small-scale shrimp farms in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam, to a level equivalent to the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program’s green Best Choice – the highest rating for environmental sustainability – by 2025, has been announced by the Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, SGS and the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative.

The commitment will bring together private sector and NGO collaborators to address challenges for small-scale shrimp farmers who make up much of the production in the Mekong Delta. The collaborators will also work with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to improve governance and advance comprehensive approaches for sustainable development.

The commitment was announced by Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard, Visiting Distinguished Statesman at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Mr. Henry Hien Phan of Minh Phu Seafood Corporation at the fifth Our Ocean Conference being held in Bali, Indonesia.

“As one of the largest shrimp producers in the world, we recognize the importance of working together to achieve production that can deliver quality, environmental protection and sustainable livelihoods,” said Mr. Hien. “This commitment will support these goals for small scale, low impact black tiger shrimp production while ensuring transparency and traceability, and bring market confidence to a new level.”

The commitment will address key challenges for small-scale shrimp farmers by significantly scaling up improvement projects, training and tools needed for sustainable production. The collaborators will align sustainability standards, provide funding and technical support for infrastructure or improved farming methods, engage in government outreach, and build capacity through training and education.

Vietnam is the second largest global producer of shrimp and this commitment is expected to impact approximately 10 percent of Vietnam’s production of black tiger shrimp by 2025.

The commitment will  deliver many  benefits to the farmers, the seafood sector and the environment, including improved data and monitoring, adoption of low-impact farming methods and best practice, financial investments, compliance with mangrove protections, governance improvements, improved livelihoods and a pathway toward a sustainable blue economy. In addition, markets will have improved confidence in the product since these benefits will be verified.

“To overcome the unique challenges of small-scale farming in Southeast Asia will require new approaches and tools,” said Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “The Monterey Bay Aquarium is proud to support this commitment and utilize our standards, tools and guidance to bring 20,000 farms up to a Seafood Watch Green rating. Our commitment illustrates how the private sector can invest in the sustainability of small producers to make measurable changes that support livelihoods, a sustainable blue economy and the health of the ocean.”

Key partners are needed to realize changes on the ground to meet this aggressive timeline. The commitment includes SGS, a globally-recognized leader in inspection, verification and certification processes. SGS will monitor progress toward the 20,000 farmer-households goal. The Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative will provide a platform for seafood stakeholders to collaborate and innovate on sustainability solutions.

“Getting to the highest levels of sustainability is not easy work, but this commitment shows the resolve to ‘roll up our sleeves’ and build capacity that is necessary to address the unique needs of small-scale shrimp farmers in the Mekong Delta,” said Secretary John Kerry.  “This commitment will put us on track to make measurable progress toward sustainable production, improved management and livelihoods.”

In 2017, Secretary Kerry launched the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative, a partnership between the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Monterey Bay Aquarium to advance sustainable development in the region. In March, he convened major private sector leaders at the North America Seafood Expo and discussed sustainability challenges, notably small-scale aquaculture in Southeast Asia. This commitment will address several challenges for small-scale aquaculture producers and encourages further collaboration with the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative to improve management, governance and livelihoods for future generations.