Investigating and accessing Vietnam’s marine biological resources


Vietnam’s seashore stretches more than 3,260 kilometres with an area of over 1,000,000 km2. Each year, this seashore brings in more than two million tonnes of the global harvest of more than 90 million tonnes of seafood. This special ecosystem is assessed as one of 16 centres of biological diversity in the world. This favourable condition has helped Vietnam develop diverse marine and coastal economies over the past 50 years. Nowadays, following the trend of going to the sea to exploit the potential of the ocean, the investigation into the environmental and animal resources in the East Sea has affirmed the significance of the country in the new period.

Results of studying Vietnam marine biological resources

Passing three development periods (before 1954, from 1954 to 1975, and from 1976 to now), the investigation into Vietnam’s marine area has obtained remarkable achievements. Especially since national unification, marine study, particularly of marine biological resources, has seen sharp progress in both quality and quantity. During this period, researchers have made great progress; many state and sector-level works were carried out; and equipment for research was acquired. These were premises for research about Vietnam marine area to gain important achievements in every aspect, such as general research about marine ecosystems, basic investigation into the potential of marine resources, application of biotechnology in the protection of marine resources, assessment of the danger to marine life resources and marine ecosystem deterioration, and plans for marine reserves.

Master research about marine ecosystems has given a full picture about natural conditions of coastal zones, providing a complete information set about the basic marine physics and marine chemistry, distribution and displacement of basic ecosystems such as river mouth, mangrove forest, lagoon, sea grass and coastal marshes. This is an important foundation for making plans to develop economics, society, diplomatic politics, security and national defence in coastal zones, and especially the plan on developing aquaculture, ecotourism and marine preservation in coastal provinces in Vietnam.

Together with general research about marine ecosystems, scientists conducted basic research about the potential of marine biological resources. As a result, a list of nearly 12,000 Vietnamese marine creature species, including animals and plants, was created. Research proved that Vietnamese seafood sources are various, including over 2,000 fishes, nearly 6,000 benthic animals, 653 seaweed species, 5 tortoise species and 12 species of sea snakes. The distribution zone, reserves and exploitation potential of several groups of marine creatures such as fish, shrimp and cuttlefish, were defined. Reserves of benthic fish and pelagic fish were from 3.0 to 3.5 million tonnes (not including distant migration pelagic fish and fish living in near islands), with exploitation potential of 1.5 to 1.7 million tonnes.

In addition, research about diversifying marine products is a positive way to reduce the pressures on traditional exploitation objects. Mollusca such clam, mussel and sweet nails are being exploited and cultivated only after fishes. Especially, over the past year, scientists from VAST discovered many high value substances from several species such as coral and medusa. This is a positive use of research and reasonable use of marine creature sources. Furthermore, continuous research and compilation of the Vietnam Red Book also makes a remarkable contribution to the preservation of marine creature sources.

Photo about several Vietnam marine creatures

Especially, study on applying marine biotechnology to protect marine resources obtained satisfactory results. Several methods to use species to protect the environment for each narrow region started to be effective. They were: methods to growing microorganisms to disintegrate and clean oil on recesses by the Institute of Biotechnology; and growing bivalves (parna viridis) with growing shrimp to reduce the environmental pollution due to shrimp’s leftovers. Biological products to clean the environment in ponds and aquiculture lagoons have also become a “Made in Vietnam” trademark.

In addition, researchers also assessed the decline in coastal resources and danger to biological resources, deterioration of Vietnam’s marine ecosystem such as population pressure, activities causing environmental pollution, climate change, using exterminatory means of exploitation, fishing gear with too small mesh size, and exploiting spawning fish zones or growing zones of small fish.

Based on investigation and study, scientists gave proposals to preserve the diversification of marine resources. In 2010, the Government approved 16 marine reserves, including the area around the islands of Tran, Co To, Cat Ba, Bac Long Vi, Hon Me, Con Co, Ly Son, Phu Quy, Con Dao, Phu Quoc and Cham, Hai Van in Son Tra, Nha Trang Bay, Chua Mountain, and Hon Cau. This combination between science and management has brought practical interest.

Orientations for study on Vietnam’s marine creatures until 2015 and vision to 2020

Over the past years, results of studies on biological ecosystem and marine biological resources have affirmed scientific and practical significance. This was the scientific basis to making plans for exploiting and growing aquaculture, promoting ecotourism, preserving seas and security and national defence, and protecting the sovereignty of Vietnam’s territorial waters. However, the study on marine biological resources over the past years also has shortcomings. Study orientations only focused on coastal areas. There was only a few studies on offshore areas. Coastal resources were over-exploited. There was more study on fish sources than on other aquaculture; more study on ground fish than on above fish (especially in the northern gulf and the west and east of the southern region). The majority of study was regional.  This was the cause of seasonal growing plans, ecosystem wound, degradation of sources, and shortcomings in solutions.

With an objective of ocean study in the next five years, to meet regional level marine biology study and have special study to meet advanced countries in the next ten years, Vietnamese scientists are making efforts to strengthen their staff, extend international cooperation, invest in equipment, and focus on comprehensive study on large marine areas. The investigation and study on biological resources must go ahead.

It is important to adequately and exactly assess the reserves of Vietnam’s marine resources, especially those in coastal areas such as southeastern and southwestern Vietnam, and the Gulf of Tonkin. It is essential to diversify marine resources such as drug-value creature resources, biological resources in deep seas, and biological resources with high economic values such as mollusca and crustaceans. This is a foundation for scientists to conduct research to build a seafood fishing ground map according to season, and to plan and manage marine resources according to territory, and apply a strategic plan for marine resources exploitation. It is also necessary to promote research applying biological technology in the protection of resources and marine environment, such as building marine reserves, and models to restore ecosystems and protect resources.

Several activities to study Vietnam marine biological resources

Over the past 50 years, the sector of studying marine environmental resources has closely coordinated with authorities and agencies to conduct scientific and technological research in order to overcome shortcomings, contributing to exploiting, reasonably using and preserving precious natural resources brought by the important geopolitical and geo-economic position of the East Sea, meeting the demand of national socio-economic sustainable development.

Translated by Tuyet Nhung

Link to Vietnamese version



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