The Tam Giang–Cau Hai Lagoon is the largest lagoon system in Southeast Asia, located in Thua Thien Hue Province of Viet Nam. Historically, this valuable common pool resource has been used by the local people to meet their subsistence needs and to earn their livelihoods.
The lagoon system underwent many drastic changes post 1975, including population increases in the coastal areas, improvements in fishing boats and gears, and the introduction of aquaculture on the lagoon shores. In the non-fisheries sectors, there have been significant environmental changes such as intensifying agriculture, expanding residential areas, and infrastructure development that have impacted the lagoon. Approximately 300 000 people are said to rely on the lagoon resources to different degrees and the majority of the fishing is small-scale fishing.
Because of the deteriorating lagoon environment and fisheries resources, the provincial authority issued a series of policies and regulations to control fishing and aquaculture operations in the lagoon in the hope of managing the lagoon resources sustainably. However, the conventional top-down approach to lagoon fisheries management proved to be ineffective as it excluded the involvement of local resource users.
In order to break through the management impasse, in late 2005, the provincial authority issued Decision 4260 that enabled the participation of local fishers in the management planning and implementation as well as the delegation of some lagoon management responsibilities to the local fishers’ groups. The co-management component of the Integrated Management of Lagoon Activities in Thua Thien Hue Province Project (IMOLA), which is executed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), has been implemented in Thua Thien Hue Province since mid 2005. IMOLA has comprised five stages: preparatory, inception, planning, implementation, and monitoring and evaluation stages.
The preparatory stage involved a series of surveys to understand better the socio-economic and fisheries situation of the locale in which the co-management project would be implemented. The shared data which were the subject of in-depth discussions, helped to foster a common understanding, which was one of the important bases for co-management operationalization.
The second phase of co-management operationalization focused largely on establishing and strengthening local fisheries associations as partners in co-management. This process had to start with fishers’ mobilization, or with the consolidation of existing formal and informal groups and networks.
The planning stage was a time-consuming process in which fisheries management plans had to be formulated and an agreement among key stakeholders had to be reached. The process involved many back-and-forth discussions and negotiations between local fisheries associations and the authorities that were grouped under co-management bodies at the commune level.
All of the agreed-upon plans and regulations were eventually put together as a single document, on the basis of which the district authorities officially allocated fishing rights to the local fisheries associations.
The fourth phase was the implementation stage and involved the collection of membership and resource user fees, fishing gear reduction and rearrangement, habitat protection, lagoon patrolling, and the operation of economic/business activities by local fisheries associations. All resource management activities were based on the plan as stipulated in the fishing rights allocation document and the fisheries associations’ annual action plans. Lagoon fisheries comanagement in the Tam Giang–Cau Hai Lagoon is currently at this stage, after six years of operation under the auspices of IMOLA.
The monitoring and evaluation (M&E) is not a separate stage, but it should be done in parallel with the co-management implementation.
This report identifies some key challenges, including lack of institutional support to the lagoon fisheries co-management system by the authority and a not fully streamlined legal system, to operationalize and sustain lagoon co-management.