Since many of Vietnam's waterways are polluted, the industry must convince consumers that the seafood is safe. (Photo: Stock File)
Australian experts guide oyster aquaculture
Tuesday, August 24, 2010, 15:20 (GMT + 9)
Vietnam’s incipient farmed oyster sector on the north-east coast has been accompanied by the direction of a team of shellfish experts from Australia.
Dr Wayne O'Connor from the Port Stephens Fisheries Institute in New South Wales, one of the experts, said the industry’s growth has been impressive.
"Within the space of three years they've virtually gone from zero oyster production in the north through to about 2,000 tonnes now. To put that in perspective that's about 50 per cent of New South Wales' current production," he declared.
He was hired by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to perk up the production of Vietnam's government-owned oyster hatchery on Cat Ba Island, reports ABC.
Scientists including O'Connor have coached Vietnamese staff on algal culturing, spawning and nursery techniques, hatchery director Dr Le Thanh Luu informed. The hatchery now generates 100 million spat yearly.
As now most juveniles are no longer bought by a large corporate farm in Bai Tu Long Bay, the hatchery is selling them to small family-owned farms. O'Connor said the project has huge potential to assuage poverty.
"Now more and more small farmers are coming on board. We've got about 200 just within the Quang Ninh area and we have estimates there's about 10,000 small farm holders there that could potentially use this technology," he elaborated.
Although the rate of production is advancing rapidly and demand now surpasses supply, O'Connor cautioned that the quality of the molluscs must improve.
Because it is cheap, most oysters are raised in clumps on recycled shells hung off rafts. But this leads oysters to grow in different shapes and sizes, which lessens their marketability as an export product in particular.
Also, because many of Vietnam’s waterways are polluted, the industry must convince consumers its shellfish are safe.
"The Vietnamese authorities are very well aware of the needs for quality assurance," he said. "They've selected sites that are comparatively remote so trying to move away from areas of high development.
"We're now talking about subsequent plans to start to transfer the technology to actually do the sorts of monitoring that we would have here in Australia to ensure the quality of the product," he continued.
The next batch of broodstock will be transferred from Tasmania to Vietnam later this year.
ACIAR has been involved in Vietnam since 1993 and has developed a considerable programme in forestry, land and water resources, animal sciences, crop sciences, fisheries and postharvest technology.
By Natalia Real