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WWF gave way to pressure from Vietnam

Publicerat måndag 7 februari 2011 kl 10.42

One of the world's most powerful environmental organizations, WWF, gave in to pressure and threats from the communist regime in Vietnam by taking the key export fish of Vietnam – Pangasius – off its redlist (a list of fish that consumers should avoid). Meanwhile, the serious environmental problems caused by the farming of pangasius in Vietnam remains.

In October last year, the World Wildlife Fund, WWF, released its new fish guide, a guide many food retailers and consumers across Europe use to adjust their purchases after. The cultivated pangasius, or striped catfish, as it is also known, a popular low priced fish, was for the first time given a red light.  The red light indicates that the WWF urge consumers not to purchase this fish. 

– When we did this analysis we saw that the production of Pangasius has deteriorated, "said Inger Naslund who is the seafood expert at WWF in Sweden.

The WWF:s decision to put Pangasius on their red list was strongly condemned by the Vietnamese government. According to the Swedish Radios sources the Vietnamese authorities appeared in the Wows offices in Vietnam threatening to suspend the organization's license to operate in the country.

– Our staff in Vietnam were worried that they would not be able to get anything done or worse, that they would lose their jobs, said Mark Powell the World Seafood leader at WWF who went to Vietnam to negotiate with the Vietnamese government and seafood industry  

According to Mark Powell the negotiations were tough and the Vietnamese vice minister of agriculture did not hesitate to make direct threats:

– The vice minister of agriculture and rural development was shaking his finger at me saying: you better watch out, said Mark Powell.
Eventually, The World Wildlife Fund gave in to the pressure. Not even two months after the organization placed Pangasius on the red List and urged consumers to not buy Pangasius the fish was taken off the list and a new label called "moving towards certification" was created. In a press release WWF wrote: “ WWF will encourage seafood buyers to continue buying Pangasius”

– I think the gesture of suggesting a compromise was necessary to take them out of the mind set of fighting with us and to say - hey look, we are not your enemy, "said Mark Powell.

The Vietnamese government and aquaculture industry promised to start the process of certifying part of their production to a new standard that the WWF has created.

But on the ground, the production of Pangasius is still the same. It is just as harmful to the environment as before the fish was taken off the red list.

– Yes, the assessment is correct, but based on this great debate that resulted from WWF's red listing, we have reached this agreement, " said Inger Naslund at WWF in Sweden

However she still defends the decision to remove Pangasius from the red list. She does not believe that the organization has been "bought" by the Vietnamese regime by giving in to the pressure:

– WWF's basis is of course dialogue. Dialogue for a better environment, Regardless of the question, she said.

The Swedish Radio has tried to reach the Vietnamese Ambassador to Sweden for a comment but without success.

An investigation on February 6 by the Swedish Radios revealed that the farming of Pangasius in Vietnam harms the environment by releasing untreated contaminated water into the Mekong river, contributes to resistant bacteria by a frequent use of antibiotics and is a driving force for the exploitation of wild fish in the sea by the use of wild fish in feeding formulas for Pangasius.  http://sverigesradio.se/p1/matenspris

For questions, contact the reporters at the Swedish Radio; Daniel Öhman or Malin Olofsson

Daniel Öhman: daniel.ohman@sr.se phone, +46 (0)730567026
Malin Olofsson: malin.olofsson@sr.se phone, +46 (0)702920150

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