There is a huge potential for agricultural development in Vietnam 's coastal provinces and islands, but the challenge is to achieve it in a sustainable manner, delegates said at a forum held in Con Dao Island on Nov. 28.

The forum was titled "Developing agriculture along coastal provinces and islands in a sustainable manner."

With a coastline that is more than 3,200km long, Vietnam's coastal zone provides a diverse range of natural resources and favorable conditions for many economic sectors to develop, including fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture, tourism and transportation, said Phan Huy Thong, director of the National Agricultural Extension Centre.

Coastal provinces have supplied many specialty products that have become famous in domestic and foreign markets like Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet fish sauce, Ly Son garlic, Phu Quoc pepper and Phu Quoc pearl, Thong said.

They have also been successful in breeding various kinds of shrimp, crabs and fish, enhancing development of the seafood processing industry, he added.

Other delegates also noted that fisheries and aquaculture are key to promoting agricultural development in coastal provinces.

Fishing has provided high-quality seafood for both domestic and export markets, created jobs for the rural population and improved living standards of fishermen in coastal areas, they said.

Tran Quoc Vy of the southern coastal Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province's Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Centre said that with more than 2,500 fishing vessels, the province can catch more than 200,000 tonnes of seafood every year.

Many modern processing factories for export have also established in the province, he said.

Coastal provinces have also been very successful in aquaculture, delegates noted.

Farmers in southern Bac Lieu Province , for instance, enjoy great profits this year from breeding sugpo prawn, white-leg shrimp, eel and other seafood, said Nguyen Xuan Khoa, director of the provincial Agricultural and Fisheries Extension Centre.

However, fishing, aquaculture and tourism activities in coastal areas remain dependent on nature, and limited application of advanced technology has seen fishery sources drop and land quality deteriorate, delegates said.

The development of aquaculture without a proper plan in many areas has resulted in low efficiency and adversely affected the environment, threatening sustainable development of the sectors, they added.

"The coastal areas are facing many challenges, including fresh water shortage, storm surges, environmental pollution, sea level rise related to climate change, and human activities such as mangrove destruction for shrimp farming," Thong said.

"These areas will likely face issues of submersion, flooding, erosion, and increasing salinisation of ground water sources in the coming time, which will greatly affect agricultural land," he added.

Thong said these dangers require coastal provinces and cities to come out with measures that ensure sustainable economic development of their localities.

To protect near-shore natural resources, representatives of provinces said they will take measures to reduce shallow water fishing, support the fishermen in changing their vocation and focus more on developing aquaculture.

They said they will strengthen focus on training human resources and enhancing agricultural and fisheries extension activities to help improve product quality and efficiency.

Delegates also called on coastal provinces and cities to map out a comprehensive investment policy for the agricultural sector to ensure it can overcome challenges and develop in a sustainable manner.

Oganised by the National Agricultural Extension Centre, more than 200 delegates, including scientists, provincial officials, agricultural specialists, and farmers from 13 coastal cities and provinces in the south attended the forum./.