Mangroves and shrimp: A comparison of China and Vietnam experiences

As part of MFF's Sino-Vietnam Initiative, a workshop in Hanoi and a field trip in Quang Ninh were organized from November 27-28, 2015 for a group of Vietnamese and Chinese mangrove specialists and Quang Ninh provincial officials. The purpose was to compare the state of mangrove-based shrimp farming in the neighboring provinces of Quang Ninh, Viet Nam and Guangxi, China, and to share lessons learned.

Participants discussing with extensive mangroves based shrimp farmers

Over recent decades, China has suffered even greater mangrove loss than Viet Nam. This has been primarily the result of infrastructure development, whereas in Vietnam the main driver has been expanding shrimp production. Between 1980 and 2000, China lost 120,000 hectares of mangroves. The 25,000 hectares that remain today are largely confined to 22 protected areas between Guangxi in the west and Fujian in the east. The mangrove cover is now stable, but the problem is that in many areas the tidal hydrology has been modified to such an extent that regeneration is very difficult: 80% of mangroves are outside concrete sea walls, which block the inland migration of mangroves in response to sea level rise.

Dr. Fan, Director of the Guangxi Mangrove Research Center, presented a new approach to mangrove recovery in the 3,000-hectare Beilun Estuary Reserve in Guangxi, close to the Vietnamese border. Because of the very high levels of soil and water pollution, it involves the delivery of water to the mangrove roots through an underground pipe system.

In advance of the workshop, the Mangrove Environment Research Center (MERC) based in Ha Noi carried out a rapid assessment of mangroves and shrimp farming in Quang Ninh. The study, which was presented at the workshop, documented three kinds of shrimp farming: (1) extensive or 100% natural, relying only on natural shrimp recruitment; (2) improved extensive, which uses hatchery post larvae and external feed; and (3) intensive. During the field trip, participants visited two models: extensive and intensive.

Intensive farming needs a large investment in pond preparation, bio-chemicals, and artificial feed. Two crops are harvested each year with a production of four tons/hectare/crop, but intensive shrimp farming has a high risk of crop loss if the weather changes suddenly, stressing the shrimp and making them vulnerable to disease. Extensive farming in mangroves, on the other hand, relies on natural recruitment of post-larvae, so has production of only about 400-600 kg/hectare/crop, but requires relatively little investment and is much less prone to disease. In the Quang Ninh case, there is no difference in market price between intensive and extensive shrimp, but in Ca Mau province, in the Viet Nam delta, projects have recently been established to ensure that farmers receive a premium price for certified organic shrimp.

There is growing demand in China for safe, high-quality food, and organic shrimp enjoy a significant price premium: US$15/kg vs. US$3/kg for standard shrimp. With this in mind, Dr. Fan proposed that the Sino-Viet Nam Initiative focus on sharing technical expertise and lessons learned between China and Vietnam on organic shrimp farming. This is of particular interest to MFF and IUCN, which are currently assessing the potential of mangrove-based shrimp farming in Bangladesh and northern Rakhine State in Myanmar; these are at similar latitudes and experience similar climatic conditions as northern Vietnam and Southern China.

MFF’s Sino-Vietnam Initiative aims to foster sharing of experience between Vietnam and China, in order to encourage the development of MFF-type models and approaches in China, and to identify and design a transboundary project between the two countries.

As a result of the exchange in November, Hoang Cong Dang, Deputy Director of the Quang Ninh Department of Agriculture and Rural Development, recommended incorporating the Sino-Vietnam Initiative into an existing broader cooperation framework between Quang Ninh and Guangxi.


Work area: 
Marine and Coastal Ecosystems
Climate Change
Viet Nam
Viet Nam
Viet Nam
Project and Initiatives: 
Mangroves for the Future 
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