Global Fishing Index

Viet Nam

There is no evidence of Viet Nam making progress towards restoring fish stocks to sustainable levels, with nearly all its catch coming from unassessed stocks, with unknown sustainability status. Additionally, critical gaps in Viet Nam’s fisheries governance system means there is limited capacity to ensure sustainable fishing into the future.

Viet Nam is the seventh largest producer of wild-caught fisheries in the world1 and a major global exporter of seafood. 2 With one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, Viet Nam’s fisheries are not only economically important but also critical to the food and livelihood security of its people3 Previous research has identified Viet Nam’s fishing sector as high-risk for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing.4 In 2017, the European Union issued Viet Nam with a yellow card.5

Viet Nam has made negligible progress towards restoring fish stocks or managing its fisheries in a sustainable manner. As a result of this negligible progress and very low governance capacity, Viet Nam received an ‘F’ rating. Nearly all (98 per cent) of Viet Nam’s catch comes from stocks that are unassessed, and whose sustainability status is therefore unknown. There are also critical gaps in Viet Nam’s fisheries governance system, related to the lack of data collection and use of science-based management measures to limit fishing impacts. As a major fishing nation with high economic and nutritional dependency on fisheries, this weak management represents a risk to fisheries sustainability and the communities that depend on fisheries for livelihoods and wellbeing. Viet Nam faces a critical challenge to ensure the sustainable management of fisheries in its waters.


To improve the sustainability of its fisheries, Viet Nam should:

Establish fisheries monitoring programs to gather high-quality information, including catch and effort data.
Increase investment in fisheries management, including building capacity to undertake assessments of stock health.
Adopt conservative catch and effort limits across fisheries where information is lacking.
Increase transparency and accountability in fisheries management activities and decision-making to reduce opportunities for corruption.
Ratify and implement the 2007 ILO Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188) and the 2012 IMO Cape Town Agreement to protect worker rights and safety in fisheries.

Progress towards SDG target 14.4

Viet Nam performs in the bottom five of the 142 assessed countries: there is negligible progress towards SDG target 14.4.

Almost nothing is known about the state of the fisheries in Viet Nam’s waters – 98 per cent of catch comes from stocks that lack sufficient information to determine if they are sustainable. This is primarily due to a lack of reporting at the species level, which is crucial for assessing stock health. This knowledge gap is of major concern considering the role of fish in feeding its population and the size of its wild caught fisheries production.

While Viet Nam has 21 assessed fish stocks, and 13 of these (62 per cent) are assessed as being sustainable, this is not an accurate reflection of the overall state of their fisheries. Together, these 21 assessed stocks account for only two per cent of the total marine catch in Viet Nam’s national waters since 1990. Approximately one per cent of this catch comes from sustainable stocks and one per cent from overfished stocks. The status of stocks that produce most of the catch in Viet Nam is unknown.

Only eight of the 21 fish stocks assessed for Viet Nam are nationally managed, indicating a critical data gap regarding the sustainability of important coastal species.

Fisheries governance

Viet Nam performs in the bottom 20 per cent of countries in Central, Southern, Eastern and South-Eastern Asia in terms of fisheries governance. It has few elements of a fisheries governance system, and there is limited capacity to ensure sustainable fishing within its waters. Critical gaps remain, particularly in terms of a lack of data and inadequate fisheries monitoring and use of science-based management measures.

Viet Nam has a solid fisheries policy foundation with clearly stated environmental, economic and livelihood goals. It has also ratified fundamental international agreements for fisheries management and marine conservation. But Viet Nam is yet to ratify key international agreements for protecting worker rights and safety in fisheries, including the 2012 IMO Cape Town Agreement and the 2007 Work in Fishing Convention (No. 188).

Despite this policy foundation, there is limited evidence that Viet Nam has the financial and professional capacity to manage its fisheries. For example, critical fisheries information including catch, fishing effort or stock health data are not regularly collected and few fisheries are managed using science-based catch and/or effort limits. While Viet Nam monitors its large-scale commercial fleets through fishing licences and vessel registration requirements, there is limited monitoring of its small-scale fishing sector.

Harmful subsidies further complicate Viet Nam’s efforts to ensure fishing within its waters is sustainable. Over 60 per cent (approximately US$335 million in 2018) of Viet Nam’s fisheries subsidies are linked to activities that are potentially harmful, by promoting overcapacity or reducing the cost of fishing. This includes tax exemptions and reduced prices for vessel construction and modernisation. While these subsidies encourage industry development, they are also linked to overfishing, particularly in the industrial sector.6

Despite these gaps, Viet Nam has several components of a compliance management system, including on-water and in-port fisheries inspections, graduated sanctions for fisheries violations and a National Plan of Action to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing. Additionally, in an effort to lift its ‘yellow card’ that was issued in 2017, Viet Nam has made a concerted effort to address key recommendations made by the European Commission, including strengthening fisheries legislation, installing vessel monitoring systems and improving enforcement of fisheries rules and regulations.7 However, the low perceived integrity of Viet Nam’s enforcement of laws, rules and regulations8 may undermine the effectiveness of the fisheries compliance management system.9

Viet Nam provides opportunities for stakeholder participation through the decentralisation of management responsibilities to lower levels of authority – for example, through community-based or customary management arrangements. However, there may be limited stakeholder capacity to effectively engage due to limited fisher representation groups (such as cooperatives or associations) and a lack of transparency around how management decisions are made, for example by not publishing management meeting minutes.

Key metrics

Metric Value
Progress score 1.3 out of 100
Total reconstructed catch in 2018 4.4 million tonnes
Total reconstructed catch (1990 to 2018) 87.9 million tonnes
Sustainable stocks 62%
Overfished stocks 38%
Catch from sustainable stocks (1990 to 2018) 1%
Catch from overfished stocks (1990 to 2018) 1%
Catch from unassessed stocks (1990 to 2018) 98%
Governance capacity Low: Level 3 of 12

Methods and data sources

Viet Nam is considered part of the Central, Southern, Eastern and South-East Asian region. Refer to the Technical Methods for a detailed explanation of the methods used by the Minderoo Foundation to produce the 2021 Global Fishing Index. The Technical Methods should be read in conjunction with the Global Fishing Index Key Insights report, Governance Conceptual Framework and Indicator Codebook.

The progress score for Viet Nam was informed by 21 assessed fish stocks. Ten assessments had recent published official stock assessments, all from regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs). The remaining 11 stocks were assessed using publicly available data and established data limited methods (CMSY++ or the Bayesian Schaefer Model).1011

Viet Nam’s governance assessment was informed by one questionnaire respondent, interviews with three local fisheries experts and the publicly available literature. Consulted references are listed in the bibliography below. Our Governance assessment measures country-level fisheries governance, with eight indicators referring specifically to a country’s most valuable fishery, as identified by respondents. The most valuable fishery identified for Viet Nam was the multi-species prawn fishery.

Governance bibliography

The following sources informed Viet Nam’s governance assessment:

Anh, K.T.N. (2012). Community-based Co-management in Vietnamese fisheries. The case of the Fisheries Associations in Tam Giang-Cau Hai Lagoon, University of Tromso, Norway, University of Tromso, Norway, pp. 1-105. [3 December 2019]

Anh, P.V., Everaert, G., Vinh, C.T. and Goethals, P. (2014). Need for integrated analysis and management instruments to attain sustainable fisheries in Vietnam, Sustainability of Water Quality and Ecology 3-4, pp. 151-154, [3 December 2019]

Armitage, D., Marchke, M. and Tuyen, T.v. (2011). Early-stage transformation of coastal marine governance in Vietnam?, Marine Policy 35, (5), pp. 703-711, [3 December 2019]

Armitage, D. and Marsche, M. (2013). Assessing the future of small-scale fishery systems in coastal Vietnam and the implications for policy, Environmental Science & Policy 27, pp. 184-194, [3 December 2019]

Boonstra, W.J. and Bach Dang, N. (2010). A history of breaking laws—Social dynamics of non-compliance in Vietnamese marine fisheries, Marine Policy 34, (6), pp. 1261-1267, [3 December 2019]

Dang, N.B., Momtaz, S., Zimmerman, K. and Hong Nhung, P.T. (2017). Effectiveness of formal institutions in managing marine fisheries for sustainable fisheries development: A case study of a coastal commune in Vietnam, Ocean & Coastal Management 137, pp. 175-184, [3 December 2019]

Dao, M.A. and Ofori, G. (2010). Determinants of firm compliance to environmental laws: a case study of Vietnam, Asia Europe Journal 8, (1), pp. 91-112, [3 December 2019]

Dao Manh, S. (2010). The Fish Stocks and Habitats of Regional, Global, and Transboundary Significance in the South China Sea, United Nations Environment Programme, Bangkok 10200, Thailand., pp. 1-3126. [3 December 2019]

Department for Science Education Natural Resources Environment (2018). Viet Nam's Voluntary National Review on the Implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, Ministry of Planning Investment, Ha Noi, pp. 1-94. [3 December 2019]

Development Economics Reaserch Group, University of Copenhagen and Central Institute for Economic Management, Ministry of Planning Investment of Vietnam (2010). The Fisheries Sector in Vietnem – A Strategic Economic Analysis, Royal Embassy of Denmark in Vietnam, pp. 1-138. [3 December 2019]

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2019). Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles, The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. [3 December 2019]

Global Security (2014). Fisheries Surveillance Force. [3 December 2019]

Ha, T.T.P. and van Dijk, H. (2013). Fishery livelihoods and (non-)compliance with fishery regulations—A case study in Ca Mau Province, Mekong Delta, Viet Nam, Marine Policy 38, pp. 417-427, [3 December 2019]

Ho, N. (2016). Fisheries co-management in Vietnam: From theory to practice. Case study in Tam Giang Lagoon, The University of Queensland, pp. 1-205. [3 December 2019]

IUU Fishing Index (2018). IUU Fishing Index – Vietnam. [3 December 2019]

Lebailly, P. (2017). Vietnam's Fisheries and Aquaculture Development's Policy: Are Exports Performance Targets Sustainable?, Oceanography & Fisheries Open access Journal 5, (4), p. 555667, [3 December 2019]

Long, G. (2017). Master plan on fisheries development of Vietnam to 2020, vision to 2030. [3 December 2019]

Long Tri, D. (2002). Vietnam Fisheries Report, Ministry of Fisheries, Hanoi, Vietnam, pp. 1-5. [3 December 2019]

LuatVietnam (2012). Functions, tasks, powers and organizations of the Fisheries Control Service. [3 December 2019]

Ministry of Fisheries and The World Bank (2005). Vietnam Fisheries and Aquaculture Sector Study, Ministry of Fisheries and the World Bank, pp. 1-141. [3 December 2019]

Nasuchon, N. (2009). Coastal management and community management in Malaysia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, with a case study of Thai fisheries management, Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea and Office of Legal Affairs, the United Nations, NEW YORK, pp. 1-91. [3 December 2019]

Ocean Health Index (2018). Vietnam Ocean Health Index. [3 December 2019]

Phi, L.T. (2009). Fisheries subsidies, supply chain and certification in Vietnam, Ha Noi, pp. 1-79. [3 December 2019]

Pomeroy, R., Thi Nguyen, K.A. and Thong, H.X. (2009). Small-scale marine fisheries policy in Vietnam, Marine Policy 33, (2), pp. 419-428, [3 December 2019]

Pramod, G. (2017). Global evaluation of fisheries monitoring control and surveillance in 84 countries, IUU Risk Intelligence, Canada, pp. 1-11. [3 December 2019]

Priit, O. (2018). Research for PECH Committee – Fisheries in Vietnam, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, pp. 1-33. [3 December 2019]

Ratner, B.D., Oh, E.J.V. and Pomeroy, R.S. (2012). Navigating change: Second-generation challenges of small-scale fisheries co-management in the Philippines and Vietnam, Journal of Environmental Management 107, pp. 131-139, [3 December 2019]

Teh, L., Zeller, D., Zylich, K., Nguyen, G. and Harper, S. (2014). Reconstructing Vietnam's Marine Fisheries Catch, 1950-2010, The University of British Columbia Working Paper Series 17, pp. 1-11, [3 December 2019]

Ton, A.D. (2018). Vietnam's Maritime Security Challenges, Commonwealth of Australia, pp. 1-58. [3 December 2019]

Trung Ho, T.V., Cottrell, A., Valentine, P. and Woodley, S. (2012). Perceived barriers to effective multilevel governance of human-natural systems: an analysis of Marine Protected Areas in Vietnam, Journal of Political Ecology 19, (1), pp. 1-17, [3 December 2019]

Ulrich, K. and Tran, C.I. (2010). Financial Services for SME Aquaculture Producers, Vietnam Case Study, German Agency for Technical Cooperation (GTZ), pp. 1-33. [3 December 2019]

United Nations Development Programme (2018). Human Development Indicators – Vietnam. [3 December 2019]

van Duijn, A.P., Beukers, R. and van der Pijl, W. (2012). The Vietnamese seafood sector – A value chain analysis, Wageningen University & Research, The Hague, The Netherlands, pp. 1-89. [3 December 2019]

van Zwieten, P.A.M., van Densen, W.L.T. and Van Thi, D. (2002). Improving the usage of fisheries statistics in Vietnam for production planning, fisheries management and nature conservation, Marine Policy 26, (1), pp. 13-34, [3 December 2019]


1Based on estimated reconstructed catch within each country’s national waters between 2014 – 2018. Pauly, D., Zeller, D. and Palomares, M.L.D. (2021). Sea Around Us Concepts, Design and Data. [30 June 2021]
2Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (2020). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020. Sustainability in Action., Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, pp. 1-224. [15 June 2020]
3Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (2019). Fishery and Aquaculture Country Profiles. The Socialist Republic of Viet Nam. [13 July 2021]
4Macfadyen, G., Hosch, G., Kaysser, N. and Tagziria, L. (2019). The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Index, Poseidon Aquatic Resource Management Limited and the Global Initiative Against Transnational Organized Crime. [13 July 2021]
5Official Journal of the European Union (2017). Commission decision of 23 October 2017 notifying the Socialist Republic of Vietnam of the possibility of being identified as a non-cooperating third country in fighting illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. [13 July 2021]
6Sumaila, U.R., Khan, A.S., Dyck, A.J., Watson, R., Munro, G., Tydemers, P. and Pauly, D. (2010). A Bottom-Up Re-estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies, Journal of Bioeconomics 12, (3), pp. 201-225, [18 May 2020]
7IUU Watch (2019). Vietnam has the chance to showcase its progress on curbing illegal fishing as the European Commission begins inspection. [29 October 2021]
8Based on country results for Attribute 5.3, “Integrity of the fisheries enforcement system”; Coppedge, M., Gerring, J., Knutsen, C.H., Lindberg, S., Teorell, I.J., Altman, D., Bernhard, M., Fish, M.S., Glynn, A., Hicken, A., Luhrmann, A., Marquardt, K.L., McMann, K., Paxton, P., Pemstein, D., Seim, B., Sigman, R., Skaaning, S.-E., Staton, J., Wilson, S., Cornell, A., Gastaldi, L., Gjerløw, H., Hindle, G., Ilchenko, N., Maxwell, L., Mechkova, V., Medzihorsky, J., von Romer, J., Sundstrom, A., Tzelgov, E., Wang, Y.-t., Wig, T. and Ziblatt, D. (2020). ”V-Dem 2019 Dataset v10” Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) Project. [27 August 2020]
9Becker, G.S. (2000). Crime and Punishment: an Economic Approach, in: Fielding, N.G., Clarke, A., Witt, R. (Eds.). The Economic Dimensions of Crime, Palgrave Macmillan UK, London, pp. 13-68. [9 November 2021]
10Froese, R., Demirel, N., Coro, G., Kleisner, K.M. and Winker, H. (2017). Estimating Fisheries Reference Points from Catch and Resilience, Fish and Fisheries 18, (3), pp. 506-526, [03 June 2021]
11Froese, R., Winker, H., Coro, G., Palomares, M.L.D., Tsikliras, A.C., Dimarchopoulou, D., Touloumis, K., Demirel, N., Vianna, G.M.S., Scarcella, G., Schijns, R., Liang, C. and Pauly, D. (in review). Catch Time Series As the Basis For Fish Stock Assessments: The CMSY++ Method, Fish and Fisheries, [3 March 2021]