Vietnam to demand WWF correction on tra fish

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Vietnamese fisheries officials will meet with representatives from the World Wildlife Fund on Wednesday, following the organization's call for European consumers to boycott three Vietnamese seafood products.

The Denmark-based international organization listed Vietnam's farmed tra fish on a list of ofther products that pollute the environment. In the list, they claimed that Vietnamese fish farmers had ruined fisheries by directly discharging nutrients, medicines and pesticides.

Pham Anh Tuan, deputy director of the General Department of Fisheries at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, said he would meet with the fund's delegation to discuss the potentially damaging claims.

The WWF's red list contains the names of products that conscientious consumers should avoid.

"If WWF fails to present true evidence and sound foundation [for its claims], the general department will ask them to make a correction," Tuan said.

Vietnam's Association of Seafood Exporters and Processors (VASEP) has responded that some major fish farms in Vietnam have met the standards of the SQF (Safe Quality Food) Institute, a division of the US's Food Marketing Institute (FMI), and received Global GAP (good agriculture practice) certificates created by European retailers.

On Tuesday, the association organized a press conference to call on Vietnamese consumers all over the world to reject the WWF's listing, in order to protect the fish farmers as well as exporters and processors.

VASEP has claimed that the wildlife group also put Vietnamese prawns on a red list published in Germany and tilapia on a red list released in Belgium.

More than 37,000 tons of prawns worth US$271 million were exported to Europe during the first ten months this year, an almost 17 percent rise over the same period last year.

Tra fish, however, remains one of Vietnam's largest export items.

Truong Dinh Hoe, general secretary of the association, guessed that the WWF might be trying to create pressure on tropical seafood farmers and processors to seek approval from the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) for their farming practices.

The independent and non-profit council was co-founded by WWF and the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative (IDH) in 2009.

"As long as the ASC is not in the market, you do not know pangasius is farmed sustainably. Therefore, WWF recommends that you find an alternative. Try one species from the green list instead," reads the Danish guide.

ASC-approved tra fish standard is expected to hit markets in 2011.

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