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WWF Kicks Off Process for Certifying Pangasius Aquaculture Products

Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue Group to Meet in Vietnam in September

WASHINGTON, DC: Pangasius producers and buyers, as well as other stakeholders, from throughout the world will meet in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam September 26-27 to begin developing standards for certifying Pangasius aquaculture products - one of the fastest growing types of aquaculture.

The main purpose of the meeting will be to identify and agree on the six to eight main environmental and social impacts related to the farming of tra and basa - the two key market species in the Pangasius family. The process, called the Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue, will continue through 2008, when participants will meet to develop credible, measurable and voluntary standards designed to minimize the key impacts they identify in September. Once finalized, the standards will be handed off to a new or existing certification entity to manage the system.

"We are excited about starting this process," said Dr. Flavio Corsin, who will coordinate the dialogue for World Wildlife Fund (WWF). "Pangasius farming is one of the fastest growing types of aquaculture in the world. It is critical to minimize Pangasius farming's impact on the environment and society, while also accommodating the market demand for this type of fish."

The Pangasius Aquaculture Dialogue is one of six dialogues initiated by the WWF. Dialogues are underway for developing standards to certify salmon, shrimp and tilapia aquaculture products. New dialogues for trout and molluscs will begin in the fall. Each dialogue group is a network of producers, members of the market chain, researchers, nonprofit organizations, government officials, and investors. They use a transparent, multi-stakeholder process to develop the standards. WWF used a similar process to create standards for forestry, fisheries and agriculture.

The first Pangasius dialogue meeting will be held in and focus on Vietnam, where 90 percent of Pangasius farming occurs. Almost 1 million tons of Pangasius are expected to be produced this year in Vietnam - a goal the country had set for 2010. Global production of Pangasius was just 10,000 tons in 1995 and 440,000 tons in 2005, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. This growth raises concerns about the sustainability of Pangasius aquaculture products, particularly from an environmental and social standpoint.

The growth in Pangasius aquaculture is driven, in large part, by the dramatic increased demand for tra and basa in the marketplace. Pangasius is sold to more than 80 countries globally, mainly in the form of white filets. The United States used to be the major market for tra and basa but that has changed over the past few years, as the United States' share of exported Pangasius has decreased from 80 percent to 10 percent. European Union countries now dominate the export market, with a share of almost 50 percent.

A wide range of stakeholders have agreed to participate in the dialogue, including producers, processors, exporters, feed manufacturers, retailers, government agencies and nonprofit organizations working on environmental and social issues related to aquaculture.

For more information about Pangasius and the WWF dialogues, go to www.worldwildlife.org/aquadialogues.