FAO in Viet Nam

Integrated management of lagoon activities (IMOLA) project in Thua Thien Hue province

IMOLA is a trust-fund project implemented by FAO and jointly funded by the Italian and Vietnamese governments. The project started in August 2005 and is aimed at assisting Thua Thien Hue province to promote the livelihoods of local fishers through the sound and sustainable management of natural resources in the Tam Giang - Cau Hai Lagoon, which is the largest lagoon system in Southeast Asia.

As both the population and the economy of Thua Thien Hue province are growing, the Tam Giang-Cau Hai Lagoon ecosystem has come under increasing pressure. Over-exploitation of fisheries resources by capture fisheries and encroachment on critical habitats by aquaculture ponds are key contributors to the deterioration of fisheries resources.

Because the financial burden of monitoring, surveillance and control measures are high, provincial authorities increasingly view the participation of resource users as a necessary element of the fisheries management system. Since it would be difficult to effectively implement any management measure as long as the fishing operation is conducted under an open access regime, provincial authorities consider group user rights as appropriate to be promoted under a co-management system. The Provincial People's Committee delegated power to the district to allocate fishing rights to fisheries associations at the grassroots level.

The IMOLA supports the implementation of the provincial decision through the establishment and strengthening of fisheries associations (FA) and the development of an effective co-management mechanism. The facilitation of this participatory process includes the development of bylaws, zoning plans, regulations, strategies, action plans, guidelines, and training on a variety of topics including alternative livelihoods.

To date, IMOLA has been assisting the establishment and strengthening of 22 local FAs in eight communes, which accounts for roughly half of the existing lagoon FAs in the province. With the development of lagoon resource management regulations coupled with the demarcation of lagoon water surfaces to each of these local FAs, the project has encouraged area-based lagoon co-management in close collaboration with local authorities.

With technical assistance in the form of aquaculture and fishing gear mapping by IMOLA, the FAs and the authorities have the necessary data for better management planning. Apart from establishing conservation areas and joint lagoon-patrolling teams with local authorities, FAs have also played a significant role in implementing reduction of fishing gears to lower the fishing pressure in the lagoon.

Despite lingering technical and financial challenges, the lagoon co-management model in Thua Thien Hue is regarded as a success story, recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), and is expected to be replicated in the future.