Vietnam's Directorate of Fisheries (D-Fish) and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) will work together on promoting responsible aquaculture in the country.

A Memorandum of Understanding to this effect was signed by the two sides at a workshop held on June 22, the first day of the Responsible Business Forum in Hanoi.

Under the MoU, the two sides will cooperate on upgrading aquaculture practices with a step-by-step approach, moving from VietGap standards to ASC certification.

Pham Anh Tuan, Deputy Head of D-Fish, said that aquaculture was one of four key components of Vietnam's fisheries industry, accounting for 60 percent of its total output, which is expected to rise to 70 percent by 2020.

The introduction of national Good Agricultural Practices (VietGAP) by the Agriculture Ministry was aimed at promoting sustainable aquaculture, and the latest initiative would take the process further ahead, Tuan said.

The workshop reviewed differences between VietGAP and ASC standards, and reached agreement on implementing a joint project that will guide VietGAP certified farmers to reach ASC certification.

Tuan said the Vietnamese Government had been committed to reducing the negative impacts of fish farming in the country, and building on the mandate that farms must meet VietGap standards, the new project would help them move towards an internationally recognised standard.

This in turn, would provide firms with greater access to international markets and ensure a more responsible aquaculture sector, he added.

In 2014, the Government issued a decree on breeding, processing and exporting catfish, stipulating that farms must acquire VietGAP or equivalent certification by the end of 2015.

ASC Managing Director Chris Ninnes said that through this project, his agency was engaging with farmers not currently able to meet ASC requirements, including smallholders.

They would benefit from greater support in improving their practices, he said, adding that this approach would also enable the ASC to become a more efficient service provider by reducing costs for producers who wish to gain ASC certification.

The ASC has so far granted quality certifications to around 3,000 labels and over 500,000 tonnes of products in the world market.

Workshop participants said aquaculture certification played an important role in promoting and assuring responsible practices that protect the environment and communities.

The new project, led by an external consultant, had the potential to lead to greater collaboration between the two organisations by adopting an area-based management approach, they added.-VNA