Scotland’s Stevenson hammers pangasius

The Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) on Friday responded to Scottish MEP Struan Stevenson’s harsh criticism of the country’s pangasius industry, inviting the politician to visit its fish farms and processing plants.

While addressing the European Parliament on Tuesday, Stevenson called Vietnam’s Mekong River where pangasius is raised “filthy” and accused the industry of “ruthlessly” exploiting workers.

He said the Mekong is “one of the most heavily polluted rivers on Earth” and is “teeming with bacteria and poisoned with industrial effluents.” He also accused the industry of employing “slave labor,” paying workers around USD 1 a day and allowing exporters to “drastically” undercut European fish farmers and fishermen on price.

In a letter addressed to Stevenson on Friday, VASEP General Secretary Truong Dinh Hoe defended Vietnam’s pangasius industry, emphasizing that the farms and plants in which the fish are raised and processed are held to “very strict global standards.”

“You are no doubt aware of the very high standards that are in place in the EU market; for any fish to be imported there or in other markets that fish must meet, at minimum, HACCP standards,” said Hoe. “Many of our industry’s processing plants not only meet HACCP standards, but also meet or exceed other voluntary standards such as those set by the British Retail Consortium (BRC), USDC and SQF 1000. Many of our companies are also preparing for Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) audits and certifications.”

Hoe invited Stevenson to visit Vietnam. “We believe that once you see how our products are grown, harvested and processed, you may wish to correct the record by speaking from first-hand knowledge and experience,” he said.

“At the same time, we do hope you will not lose sight of the fact that the beautiful fish we grow in Vietnam is meeting a need for an affordable ‘family-friendly’ fish in world markets,” added Hoe. “Our pangasius is a fish for everyone, and we are proud of the fact that, through the efforts of our hard-working people, we are contributing to feeding the families of the world.”

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