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Ben Tre clam fishery in Vietnam achieves MSC certification for third time

The Ben Tre clam fishery in Vietnam has achieved MSC certification for the third time, which the Marine Stewardship Council, an international non-profit, says marks a significant triumph for the Mekong Delta’s fishing community.  

The fishery became the first in Southeast Asia to attain MSC certification in 2009 and was re-certified in 2016. Today the fishery is co-managed by the government’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) and 11 fishers’ co-operatives, in Ben Tre province, a 65km area of coast, rivers and protected mangroves.  

The traditional technique for harvesting Asiatic hard clams (Meretrix lyrata) by hand from the shores does not disturb other species, the area’s biodiversity or the delicate ecosystem.  

Widely recognized as the world’s most credible sustainability assessment of wild capture fish and seafood, the MSC Fishery Standard is founded on three principles: healthy stocks, minimizing impact on the marine environment, and effective fishery management.  

Mr. Nguyen Van Buoi, Deputy Director, the Ben Tre Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (DARD) said: “Maintaining and re-recognizing the Ben Tre clam industry is due to the great efforts of the community of three coastal districts of Ba Tri, Binh Dai and Thanh Phu. The clam industry has made a positive and important contribution to the growth and sustainable development of the province, creating jobs for thousands of local workers and stable incomes for coastal communities. Our department will continue to support the community to maintain and develop MSC certification for Ben Tre clams for example by protecting the natural resources, research to ensure compliance with the Standard’s conditions and by expanding export markets.” 

The assessment against the MSC standard showed the community has established a well-functioning system for collecting data, they are empowered to set their own goals and this has brought socioeconomic and environmental benefits. Their sustainability efforts are supported by government regulation and the DARD’s monitoring program to protect Ben Tre’s 4,800 hectares of mangroves.  

Whilst renowned for their commitment to sustainability, a lack of administrative capacity meant the fishery had to withdraw from the program in 2022. With support from MSC’s Outreach team in 2023 they applied for re-assessment the MSC Fisheries Standard.  

This certification follows a 13 month assessment process by fisheries experts employed by conformity assessment body, Control Union (UK) Limited. This provides analysis of the fishery’s practices, which they scored highly, above 90 out of 100 against each of the three principles.  

This third fishery certification will provide opportunities to access international markets for MSC seafood. While the clams can be gathered year round, April to October is the busiest time before they are sold domestically to processing companies spanning the Mekong Delta before being exported internationally, including to the European Union.  

Further information about this assessment, including the final public certification report can be found here.