WWF Vietnam calls for tra fish to be removed from 'red list'

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The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) office in Vietnam Thursday said that the tra fish (pangasius) should be moved out of the "Don't buy" list while awaiting a reassessment of the case.

In a press release issued Thursday, WWF Vietnam also said it has received standards used to assess pangasius-processing from its colleagues in Europe on December 8 and passed them on to the General Directorate of Fisheries as well as the Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers(VASEP).

While endorsing a Directorate of Fisheries recommendation that the WWF should remove Vietnamese pangasius from its red list until the next assessment, WWF Vietnam also said future assessments must be participatory.

The WWF Global Seafood Leader, Mark Powell, will visit Vietnam Tuesday (December 14) to answer all technical questions related to the assessment methodology and process, WWF said, adding meetings will be arranged with VASEP, related stakeholders and the media a day later.

In the press release, WWF Vietnam reiterated that it was not involved in the assessment, but as the WWF's representative in the country, it has the responsibility to participate in solving the problem.

The office said it had communicated to the WWF International key arguments of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and VASEP against the listing.

In its 2010-2011 guidance manual for seafood consumers in Germany, Belgium, Austria, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, WWF downgraded Vietnam's pangasius from YELLOW - "Think twice" to the RED - "Don't buy" list.

The action has been rejected by tra breeders, processors, and officials in Vietnam who've called the assessment groundless.

"We have researched WWF's assessments carefully and were very disappointed," Pham Anh Tuan, deputy head of the General Fisheries Department, said on Thursday.

WWF's 19 criteria were based on only two materials: an article published by the World Aquaculture Magazine in 2009 and an environmental report by the Netherlands' Wagenningen University in the same year, Tuan said.

"To have the data published in 2009, they must have collected it in 2008. Thus, it is unconvincing and unscientific to use that data for the 2010-11 guidance manual," he said.

Seven out of the 19 criteria lack evidence or even information, Tuan said, adding there were others that were irrelevant and incorrect.

"It is regretful that members of the WWF in several European countries have made assessments that are inaccurate, lack scientific foundations and are at odds with the realities of Vietnam's tra fish," the Vietnam News Agency quoted Nguyen Phuong Nga, spokesperson for Vietnam's Foreign Ministry, as saying at a press briefing in Hanoi Thursday.

This activity will cause great losses to Vietnamese fish farmers and seafood processors as well as European consumers and not benefit the ongoing development of economic and trade ties between Vietnam and European nations, she said.

She went on to say that Vietnam has over the past years strictly controlled the seafood processing industry, from planning and breeding to processing and widely applied the highest international standards for aquaculture, ensured food hygienic safety and implemented measures to protect the ecological environment that were on par with international standards.

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