Swordfish is a highly migratory species of fish found throughout most of the world’s oceans. This FIP focuses on the Western and Central North Pacific Ocean (WCNPO) swordfish stock, under the management of the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), fished by the Vietnamese handline and hand-operated longline fishery.
The Vietnamese handline fishery began operating in late 2011. The fishery primarily targets large tunas — such as yellowfin and bigeye — in offshore areas within the Vietnam Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ), although swordfish and other large pelagic species are also taken. Handliners attract fish using bait and lights, with vessels usually operating up to four lines, each with two hooks. The length of a fishing trip is approximately 25 days. There is incomplete information available on the fleet, but possibly close to 1,500 vessels are currently operating (source: MRAG MSC PA citing tuna pre-assessment, 2013).
The fleet of handline and longline vessels has continued to modernize and upgrade technology, but most are still small and not well equipped by Western and Central Pacific Ocean (WCPO) industrial standards. Vessels are licensed at the provincial level but any management measures (i.e. capacity management and operational restrictions) are generally imposed at a national level. All fishing currently occurs within the Vietnam EEZ.
All catch is initially landed in Vietnam, with higher quality catch exported as both whole fish and processed product. The remainder is retained for local consumption and processing.
According to the MSC Pre-Assessment of the fishery, the main obstacles to sustainability are:
- No explicit limit or target reference points are defined by which to manage the exploitation of the stock more robustly.
- There is not a well-defined harvest control rule in place for swordfish, although there are rules and management tools available from other fisheries in the Western Central Pacific Fishery Commission (WCPFC) area for reducing catch or effort in the swordfish fishery should critical limits be approached.
- Currently, there is not sufficient information to rule out the finning of sharks.
- There is poor information on catches in the fishery.
- There is little information regarding bycatch and ETP species in the fishery.
- The fishery management system in Vietnam does not explicitly embody the precautionary approach and certain provisions of conservation and management of the WCPFC need to be addressed by the national legislation.
- There are no fishery-specific objectives for swordfish at the national level.
- There is no management plan for the fishery.
- There are shortcomings in addressing illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in the country.
Swordfish is a highly migratory species of fish found throughout most of the world’s oceans.
- To adopt explicit limit or target reference points for the swordfish stocks by January 2021.
- To design and adopt a Management Plan for swordfish, including a well-defined harvest control rule by January 2021.
- To improve data collection in the fishery by July 2022.
- To assess the impacts of the Vietnamese handline fleet over other ecosystem components, such as bycatch species and endangered, threatened and protected (ETP) species by July 2022.
- To better address illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing by January 2021.
- To achieve an MSC-certifiable status by July 2022.
FIP at a Glance