Fisheries Country Profile: Viet Nam (2018)

by Mr. Nguyen Tuan Uyen

2017 Regional Fisheries Policy Network (RFPN) Member for Viet Nam


 Viet Nam is located in the west bank of the South China Sea (Figure 1) with an area of more than 331,000 km2 with population of around 92.7 million in 2016. The country’s internal and territorial waters are 226,000 km2, the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) is more than 1.0 million km2, and there are more than 4,000 islands and islets scattered offshore. Viet Nam has high biodiversity of tropical marine species with about 11,000 species. The country has a long coastline of 3,260 km and the waters abound with 2,038 species of marine fishes of which about 130 species have commercial value, and 30 species are regularly exploited by capture fisheries. For centuries, the Mekong River Delta in the south and the Red River Delta in the north have been used for wild fishing as well as extensive fish farming. The Mekong River Delta, one of the most productive fishing zones, covers an area of about 40,000 km2. In addition, there are about 4,200 km2 of rivers, lakes and other natural bodies of water located further inland, which swell to an additional 6,000 km2 during periods of seasonal flooding, making up 12 bays and lagoons with a total area of 1,160 km2.

Figure 1. Map of Viet Nam
Source: FAOSTAT, 2018

Viet Nam is geographically endowed with ideal conditions for the thriving fishery sector. Accordingly, the fisheries sector plays an important role in the country’s economy. Given the vital role of fishery, the Government of Viet Nam has strongly committed to its development. The Government of Viet Nam aims to turn the country into a global leading seafood exporter which is set out in the country’s fisheries development strategy plan 2020. Under this plan, the seafood industry is expected to contribute 30-35% to the country’s agro-forestry-fisheries GDP.

Viet Nam’s sea area is divided into three fishing areas, namely: coastal area (11.12 km from the beach to coastal line and comprises the fishing zone for vessels with engine under 20 HP); inshore area (43.8 km from coastal line to inshore and the fishing zone for vessels with engine from 20-90 HP); and offshore area (between the inshore route and the outer boundary of the exclusive economic zone of Viet Nam’s sea area and fishing zone for vessels with engine over 90 HP) (Figure 2).

Figure 2. Zoning of fishing areas in Viet Nam

There are now more than 500,000 aquaculture farms in Viet Nam occupying more than one million ha, a figure which had doubled from that of 2000. The country’s aquaculture sector generated an estimated of 3.0 billion US$ per year and more than 1.6 million people had been employed full time, a majority of whom are women.

In 2015, the export turnover of Viet Nam’s fishing industry reached 6.5 billion US$, which increased 16 times during the last 20 years. This growth has led Viet Nam to become one of the five largest seafood exporters in the world together with Indonesia and Thailand, and the third in fishery and aquaculture production, after China and India, and the 13th on fish yields.


Total Fish Production

The overall fisheries production of Viet Nam from capture fisheries and aquaculture was 5.6 million MT in 2011 and 6.7 million MT in 2016 (Figure 3). The output of Viet Nam’s fishery sector has grown exponentially which could be attributed to the continued expansion of the aquaculture sub-sector.

Figure 3. Total fisheries production of Viet Nam in 2011-2016 by quantity (MT)
Source: D-FISH

Marine Capture Fisheries

The estimated production from marine capture fisheries in 2016 was 3,076 thousand MT up by 3% compared to 2015, of which the fishing output is estimated to reach 2,876 thousand MT, up by 2.21% compared to 2015. According to local reports, tuna production in 2016 in the three central provinces was estimated at 17,652 MT, of which in Binh Dinh, the cumulative production reached 9,368 MT, an increase of 5% compared to 2015; in Khanh Hoa at 4,072 MT, down by 12% over the same period last year; and in Phu Yen at about 4,212 MT, which was the same as that of 2015.

Species of high economic value that predominate in the production surveys in the Tonkin Gulf included round scad, Japanese horse mackerel, short bodied mackerel, squid, seabream, shortfin saury, and brushtooth lizardfish. The dominant species in the Central Region are the round scad, hairtail fish, Ariidae, seabream, shortfin saury, and brushtooth lizardfish, bronze bream, tuna, wahoo and oceanic squid, while snakeheads, shortfin saury and brushtooth lizardfish, red bigeye, red mullet goatfish, round scad, squid, Indian mackerel are dominant in the Southern Region, and in the South West coast, Indian mackerel, round scad, short mackerel, anchovies, lion head croakers, torpedo scad, squid, shrimps dominate (General Statistics Office, 2015).

Viet Nam has nine species of tuna with an estimated reserve of over 600,000 MT, of which skipjack tuna is more than 220,000 MT, and oceanic tuna is one of the important marine capture species. Based on research on the stock assessment and production of tuna in the waters of Viet Nam, the estimated average stock of yellowfin tuna is more than 45,000 MT, and the capacity for exploitation is from 17,000 to 22,000 MT per year, and the average annual output in the period 2011-2015 was estimated at around 20 thousand MT (General Statistics Office, 2015).

The fishing vessels of Viet Nam are mostly small fishing vessels made of wood (about 99%), while steel and composite boats have been built recently under Decree No. 67 of the Government but comprise only a negligible number. The number of fishing vessels until the middle of December 2016 was 109,762 vessels, of which 33,173 vessels had capacities of 90 HP and 76,589 vessels of less than 90 HP capacity (Figure 4).

Figure 4. Number of fishing vessels in Viet Nam in 2011-2015 by engine capacity
Source: D-FISH

Currently, there are about 40 kinds of marine fishing gears in Viet Nam, which could be grouped into six, such as gillnet, trawl, purse seine, hook and line, stick-falling net, and others. In the Gulf of Tonkin, gillnet is the most important fishing gear used by the largest proportion of the fishing boats or about 23-36% of total number of fishing boats. Meanwhile in the southeast and the southwest waters, trawl is the most important (in 33-35% of the total number of fishing boats). Since 2007, fisheries are shifting from demersal fisheries (bottom trawls, bottom gillnet) to pelagic fisheries (floating gillnet, purse seine, lift net) in the Gulf of Tonkin, the central and the southwest waters. The most common fishing gear is gill net (36%) followed by trawl (19%), hook and line (16%), tuna fishing gears (surrounding net, longline, purse seine, etc.) (3%), squid fishing gears (stick-held falling net, trawl, traps, jigging,etc.) (2%), purse seine (5%), and others (19%) (Figure 5).

Figure 5. Proportion of marine capture fishing gears in Viet Nam
Source: D-FISH

Inland Capture Fisheries

Inland capture fisheries, particularly in the floodplains and rice fields of the Mekong and Red River deltas, provide an important source of aquatic products for rural people’s nutrition and seasonal income. Although there is a dearth of statistical data, several studies indicate that inland fisheries are of considerable importance for rural people in many parts of Viet Nam, not only to those who are engaged in the fisheries as full-time fishers but also households that combine fishing as a component of wider livelihood strategies. Accordingly, a study by the Tropical Biology Institute of Ho Chi Minh City documented that the annual yields from inland capture fisheries in 2001 was as high as 430 kg/ha from a 45,000 ha area in Can Tho and Kien Giang Provinces in the Mekong Delta. Considering that the Mekong Delta has a flooded area of about 1.0 million ha during the rainy season each year, the contribution from floodplain fisheries in that part of the country would far exceed the current estimate of the production from inland capture fisheries in Viet Nam.


According to the Directorate of Fisheries, the fishery industry experienced many ups and downs in 2016, with unfavorable weather factors, incidence of epidemics and market barriers that affected the fisheries production and business of local people. Despite the challenges, aquaculture remained the spearhead of agriculture, and its production in 2011-2016 continued to rise as shown in Figure 6.

Figure 6. Aquaculture production of Viet Nam in 2011-2016 by quantity (MT)
Source: D-FISH
  • Ornamental Fish Aquaculture

Viet Nam has great potential for aquaculture for ornamental fishes due to its tropical climate, abundant natural aquatic resources, and the diversity of river and canal systems that are conducive to the development of ornamental fisheries. Viet Nam has been considered as one of the three aquariums in the world — South America, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Ho Chi Minh City is considered the center of ornamental aquaculture sector in Viet Nam with a long history of development based on ancient practices.

Although Viet Nam has great potentials for development of its ornamental fisheries, ornamental aquaculture has not been paid much attention over the past years, especially in terms of investment in research, production, and development. The country seems to have no specific plans for the sustainable production of ornamental fish and does not have facilities for the steady source of seeds. The scale of production is small, scattered, and mainly household endeavors. Thus, there are no official statistics on the aquaculture of ornamental fish in Viet Nam for now.


The distribution of marine catch, particularly from trawlers, undergo various channels. The commercially important fish and shrimp catch are usually marketed through the retailers, middlemen or brokers. Direct selling in markets is also practiced particularly by female members of families that operate small trawlers. In fish ports and fish landing markets in Viet Nam, the very common people involved in marketing are the middlemen.

With the increasing demand for quality and development, the operation of the fisheries sector requires the involvement of a number of financial institutions and fish quality inspection agencies responsible for meeting international standards which has become increasingly tight (Figures 7 and 8).

Figure 7. Aquaculture value chain in Viet Nam
Figure 8. Market structure of catfish industry in Viet Nam
Source: VASEP, 2016


The seafood exports of Viet Nam have made great strides in nearly 20 years. The seafood export turnover from as low as US$ 550 million in 1995 has experienced strong growth over the years with an average growth of 15.6% per year. This growth has made Viet Nam one of the five largest seafood exporters in the world, and a leader in supplying fish and fishery products to the global market. In 2000, the seafood export of Viet Nam has a breakthrough growth due to the strong development of its aquaculture, especially its catfish and brackishwater shrimp (black tiger shrimp and white shrimp) culture.

After 12 years, seafood export turnover increased more than four times from nearly US$ 1.5 billion in 2000 to US$ 7.8 billion in 2014 (Figure 9). In 2016, the country’s seafood products were exported to 160 countries and territories. The three major markets are the the United States (20.6%), EU (17.3%), and Japan (15.7%), with potential markets such as China (12.2%) and the ASEAN (7.5%).

Figure 9. Value of seafood products exported by Viet Nam in 2011-2015 (US$ 1,000)
Source: GDVC, 2016
Figure 10. Fishery products exported by Viet Nam to the EU in 2011-2015 by value (US$ 1,000)
Source: GDVC, 2016

From 2011, the imported raw materials increased sharply, with an average import value of US$ 50-60 million per month. In recent years, the import included not only seafood such as tuna, squid, octopus, sea fish but also shrimp from other countries such as India, Thailand. Viet Nam’s top seafood import markets in 2015 are shown in Figure 11.

Figure 11. Top countries of origin of seafood products imported by Viet Nam
in 2015 by value (US$ 1,000) (ranked by value)
Source: GDVC, 2015


National Laws

  • Marine capture fisheries
  • Revised Fisheries Law 2017
  • Decree No. 14/2009/ND-CP on amendment and supplement of a number of articles of the decree No.59/2005/ND-CP of 04 May 2005 on conditions for production and doing business of a number of aquatic product business lines
  • Decree No. 33/2010/ND-CP of the Government on management of fishing activities of Vietnamese organizations and individuals in the sea areas
  • Decree No. 103/2013/ND-CP by the Viet Nam Government issued on 12 September, 2013 on regulations on sanctioning administrative violations in the operation of fisheries
  • Decree No. 32/2010/ND-CP On the management of fishery activities of foreign ships in Viet Nam’s sea areas
  • Decree No. 67/2014/ND-CP on Fisheries Development Policy dated 29 April 2014
  • Decree No. 52/2010/ND-CP on import of fishing vessels on 17 May 2010
  • Decree No. 66/2005/ND-CP on ensuring safety for people and ships engaged in fisheries activities dated 19 May 2005.
  • Decision No. 1690/QD-TTg dated 16 September 2010 on approving Viet Nam’s fisheries development strategy through 2020.
  • Decision No. 375/QD-TTg on approving the scheme on production reorganization in marine fisheries dated 01 March 2013.
  • Decision No. 930/QD-BNN-TCTS dated 05 May 2014 regarding to National Plan of Action to Combat IUU Fishing
  • Circular No. 50/2015/TT-BNNPTNT on catch documentation scheme; Revised the circular on the catch certification and traceability with emphasis on tracing the fishing production and combating IUU fishing
  • Revising Decree No. 53/2014/ND-CP emphasis on controlling fishing capacity in fishing zones – adopted 04/2017; Compulsory regulation of offshore fishing vessels must be installed and used monitoring devices during the operation at sea
  • Inland Capture Fisheries
  • Revised Fisheries Law 2017
  • Decree No. 103/2013/ND-CP by the Viet Nam Government issued on 12 September 2013 on regulations on sanctioning administrative violations in the operation of fisheries
  • Aquaculture
  • Revised Fisheries Law 2017
  • Decree No. 103/2013/ND-CP by the Viet Nam Government issued on 12 September, 2013 on regulations on sanctioning administrative violations in the operation of fisheries
  • Decree No. 36/2014/ND-CP on raising, processing and exporting of Pangasius products dated 29 April 2014
  • Decree No. 66/2016/ND-CP stipulating conditions for business investment in plant protection and quarantine; type of tree; Raising of common forest animals; breed; Seafood; food
  • Decree No. 39/2017/ND-CP on the management of animal feeds and aqua feeds products on 04/04/2017
  • Decision 2033/QD-TTg on approving the scheme to develop production and sale of Tra catfish in the Mekong river delta up to 2020
  • Decision No. 332/QD-TTg dated 03/3/2011 on aquaculture development to 2020.
  • Decision No. 1171/QD-BNN-TCTS dated 27/7/2012 on planning the system of research, production and supply of aqua feeds up to 2020
  • Decision No. 5528/QD-BNN-TCTS: planning of brackish shrimp farming in the Mekong River Delta up to 2020
  • Circular No. 47/2009/TT-BNNPTNT dated July 31, 2009 promulgating national technical regulations on food safety and hygiene in aquaculture;
  • Circular No. 82/2009/TT-BNNPTNT dated 25/12/2009 promulgating national technical regulations on food safety and hygiene in aquaculture
  • Circular No. 45/2010/TT-BNNPTNT providing for conditions on food safety and hygiene-guaranteed black tiger shrimp and white shrimp-rearing establishments and zones on 22 July 2010

Gender Policies

  • Gender Equality Law No. 73/2006/QH11 dated 29 November 2006
  • Decree No. 70/2008/ND-CP dated 4 June, 2008 on detailing the implementation of a number of articles of the Law on Gender Equality
  • Decree No. 48/2009/ND-CP dated May 19, 2009 of the Government on measures to ensure gender equality.
  • Decree No. 55/2009/ND-CP dated June 10, 2009 of the Government on sanctioning violations of administrative regulations on gender equality
  • Directive No. 10/2007/CT-TTg dated 3 May, 2007 of the Prime Minister on the implementation of the Law on Gender Equality
  • Resolution No. 57/NQ-CP dated December 01, 2009 of the Government promulgating the Government’s Action Program for the period up to 2020 in implementing Resolution No. 11-NQ/TW dated April 24, 2007 of the Government. Politburo on the work of women in the period of accelerated industrialization and modernization of the country
  • Decision No. 2351/QD-TTg dated 24 December 2010 of the Prime Minister approving the National Strategy on Gender Equality 2011-2020
  • Document No. 2443/LDTBXH-BĐG dated July 14, 2008 of the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs on the implementation of the Government’s Decree No. 70/2008/ND-CP dated June 4, 2008 Detailed implementation of some articles of the Law on Gender Equality
  • Circular No. 191/2009/TT-BTC dated 01 October 2009 of the Ministry of Finance guiding the management and use of funds for gender equality and activities for the advancement of women
  • Decision No. 1696/QD-TTg dated 02 October 2015 of the Prime Minister approving the National Program of Action on Gender Equality 2016-2020
  • Prime Minister’s Decision 178/QD-TTg on the issuance of the Plan of Implementation of the Conciliation Notice 196-TB / TW dated 16 March 2015 of the Secretariat of the Project “Strengthening the Leadership of the Party for gender equality and for the advancement of women in the new situation”
  • Decision No. 515/QD-TTg dated 31 March 2016 approving the Project on gender equality in cadres and civil servants in the 2016-2020 period
  • Decision 91/QD-BNN-TCCB dated 13/01/2016 on approving the Action Plan on Gender Equality for the period 2016-2020 of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development
  • Decree No. 39/2017/ND-CP on the management of animal feeds and aquatic products on 04/04/2017


D-FISH. Directorate of Fisheries, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Accessed on 28 May 2018.

FAOSTAT. 2018. Statistics Division, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Available at Accessed on 28 May 2018.

GDVC. 2015. General Department of Viet Nam Customs. Available at Accessed on 28 May 2018.

GDVC. 2016. General Department of Viet Nam Customs. Accessed on 28 May 2018.

General Statistics Office. 2015. Statistical Yearbook 2011-2015. Available at Accessed on 28 May 2018.

Research Institute of Marine Fisheries. 2013.

VASEP. 2016. Viet Nam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers. Available at on 28 May 2018.