WWF's primary approach to minimizing the main issues associated with pangasius aquaculture is to develop measurable, performance-based standards for certifying pangasius aquaculture producers. This process began in September 2007 in Vietnam when the first meeting of the Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue was held. The Dialogue includes more than 200 pangasius farmers, processors, exporters, traders, retailers, feed and chemical manufacturers, seed suppliers, government agency representatives, nongovernmental organizations, researchers and others. WWF coordinates the Dialogue but has an equal voice in the process.
At the inaugural meeting, Dialogue participants identified the seven key negative environmental and social issues (summarized above) to address. Draft principles, criteria, indicators and standards were developed by Technical Working Groups that began meeting in the spring of 2008. The draft documents were posted April 23, 2009 for the first of two 60-day public comment periods. Click here to review the documents and provide feedback.
According to the WWF, when finalised, the standards will be given to a new organisation, to be co-founded by WWF, that will be responsible for working with independent, third party entities to certify farms that are in compliance with the standards.
Participants identified guiding principles -- high level goals -- for each of the eight issues associated with pangasius farming. The principles will provide the framework for the criteria, indicators and standards for responsible pangasius farming. The criteria will aim to provide direction on how to reduce each impact and the indicators will address how to measure the extent of each impact. Standards will be quantitative performance levels that evaluate whether a principle is achieved.
The principles associated with each issue are:
- Locate and operate farms within established national and legal framework
- Farms must be located, designed, constructed and managed to minimize negative impacts on other users and the environment
- Minimize negative impacts on water resources
- Minimize impacts on the genetic integrity of local pangasius production
- Use feed and feeding practices that make efficient use of available feed resources and minimize waste
- Implement farm management measures to maximize fish health
- Ensure food safety and quality while minimizing the impact to the ecosystem and human health
- Develop and operate farms in a socially responsible manner that contributes effectively to rural development and, particularly, poverty alleviation
The farming of pangasius - mainly tra (Pangasianodon hypophthalmus) and basa (Pangasius bocourti) - is one of the fastest growing types of aquaculture in the world. In Vietnam, where 90 per cent of pangasius farming occurs, 1.1 million tons of pangasius were produced in 2008 - a goal the country had set for 2010. Global production of pangasius was just 10,000 tons in 1995.
The growth in pangasius aquaculture is driven, in large part, by the dramatic increased demand for tra and basa in the marketplace. Pangasius is sold to more than 130 countries globally, mainly in the form of white filets. The United States used to be the major market for tra and basa but that has changed over the past few years, as the United States' share of exported pangasius has decreased from 80 per cent to 4 per cent. European Union countries now dominate the export market, with a share of 35 per cent.