Vietnam: Shrimp breeding in mangroves helps protect forest, provides stable incomes

The Vietnam Mekong Delta province of Tra Vinh is encouraging shrimp breeding in mangrove forests as the practice offers sustainable incomes and helps to maintain the province’s forest cover.

With a coastline of 65 kilometers, the province has advantages for aquaculture development, but climate change and changes in the aquaculture environment have caused risks of disease.

To adapt to climate change, the province has shifted to other methods, including the shrimp-forest farming model, which is mostly implemented in the coastal districts of Cau Ngang, Chau Thanh and Tra Cu, and Duyen Hai Town.

Under the model, shrimp bred under extensive farming methods eat mostly natural food in the mangrove forest. The shrimp is clean and is popular with consumers.

The variety that is mostly bred is black tiger shrimp, one of the country’s key shrimp exports.

Farmer Pham Thai Binh in Duyen Hai District’s Long Vinh Commune has bred shrimp in a 3-hectare mangrove forest for nearly 20 years and earns an average profit of about VND100 million ($4,300) a year.

The profit is not as high as that from breeding shrimp under industrial farming, but it is stable.

The shrimp-forest farming model is a sustainable livelihood as it reduces the risk of shrimp disease, he said.

Binh breeds about 200,000 shrimp a year and staggers the release of shrimp fry into ponds in the forests four times a year in the dry season to avoid an oversupply during the main harvest season. As a result, the shrimp sells at high prices.

In the rainy season when the salinity of water fluctuates and shrimp are easily affected by disease, Binh breeds crabs in the mangrove forest.

Duyen Hai District authorities have encouraged farmers with modest finances who breed shrimp under intensive or super-intensive farming models to switch to shrimp-forest farming.

Duyen Hai has more than 8,500 hectares of shrimp, according to the district’s Bureau of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The shrimp-forest farming model accounts for nearly 60% of the district’s shrimp farming areas.

Tran Kien Chuc, chairman of the Dong Hai Commune People’s Committee in Duyen Hai, said that most farmers who breed shrimp in mangrove forests have stable incomes.

The shrimp-forest farming model offers a profit of VND100-200 million ($4,300-8,600) per hectare a year.

Supporting production costs

The province’s Agriculture Extension Centre last year supported 22 shrimp breeding households in Duyen Hai’s Dong Vinh and Long Vinh communes on a total breeding area of 36 hectares.

The households were provided VND12 million ($520) per hectare for production costs, including 50% of the cost to buy black tiger shrimp fry, 50% of the cost to buy water quality measuring tools, and a part of the cost to buy food and other material inputs.

They were also trained in advanced farming techniques, which help reduce production costs.

The supported households had an average yield of 700 kilograms of black tiger shrimp after breeding for three months and an average profit of VND74 million ($3,200) per hectare.

Huynh Hoang An, in Long Vinh Commune, said he received support to breed shrimp in a 2.5-hectare cajuput forest.

The costs to feed the shrimp are not high because they eat mostly natural food. Shrimp bred under the model grow well and have few diseases, he said.

An has expanded his shrimp-forest farming area to 7 hectares.

Nguyen Van Phung, deputy director of the center, said the shrimp-forest farming model has adapted to climate change well.

The province has encouraged farmers to expand as it offers sustainable profits and keeps forests protected.

The province has more than 9,000 hectares of forests, mostly mangrove forests, with a forest coverage rate of 3.63%.

Of the province’s total forests, more than 4,000 hectares were planted by local households who breed shrimp in the forests, according to the province’s Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.

The province plans to grow more new forests, aiming to increase its total forest area to 10,000 hectares by 2025.

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