TED Case Studies
Number 769, 2004
by Mary Nguyen
Vietnamese Fish Sauce
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I. Identification

1. The Issue

The Vietnamese have a saying "A thousand years of Chinese domination. A hundred years of French colonization. Twenty years of daily civil war. The heritage my mother left me. The heritage of my mother is my country of Vietnam." This is the secret and history of fish sauce, which has outlived Chinese, French, and American rule in Vietnam. At the end of the Vietnam Civil War in 1975 until 1994 the United States imposed a trade embargo on Vietnamese products. In 1994, trade agreements were developed and sanctions lifted Vietnam was going to start selling Vietnamese fish sauce to the overseas Vietnamese and the world. Vietnam is famous for its fish sauce. Those looking for exotic Asian cuisine and their ingredients have asked and many will refer to the Vietnamese fish sauce as the seasoning to the secret of great taste. The problem is that during the time of isolation from the world other nations were able to take the name of Vietnamese fish sauce and make a profit without maintaining the essence of the fish sauce. The areas known for the famous fish sauce of Vietnam is Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet. It is time to reclaim the name of fish sauce for Vietnam and return to the sauce that seasons the pallet of any great Southeast Asian dish.

2. Description

Fish sauce is a condiment derived from fish that have been allowed to ferment. The term describes a wide range of products used in many different cultures at different times. Fish sauce is used in many Southeast Asian cooking to add saltiness to the dishes. Asian fish sauce is made from anchovies, salt, and water; used in moderation because it is intensely flavored. The fish sauce from Vietnam is generally called nuoc mam, and the similar condiment from Thailand is called nam pla. In China, it is called yu lu. The Indonesian semisolid fish paste trassi and the Malay fermented krill brick belacan are other popular variations of the same theme.i Although there are many names for one product, Vietnam has gained notoriety for making the best fish sauce. Generations of fisheries and families have worked hard to produce fish sauce even when trade issues barred sales overseas they were willing to sell the product under other nations, but it is time to protect the product that connects every Vietnamese to home.

History of Fish Sauce in Vietnam:

Phu quoc portFish sauce has a long unwritten history for centuries in Vietnam. Many of the secrets of making of fish sauce are traditional family histories from parts of Vietnam in Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet, both are most notable for there quality. Although anyone who is Vietnamese knows how to produce fish sauce, the pungent odor of the fish, and the time given to produce it would not be easy to withstand year around in hot and cold weather. Phu Quoc’s known records of fish sauce only date back 200 years. Vietnam with over 2,140 miles of coastline excluding the islands the main staple comes from fishing and by products of fish.

Nuoc mam is a daily staple for every Vietnamese and sauce from Phu Quoc is prized above all others. Among marine fish, anchovies and related species of small schooling fish from two to five inches in length are commonly used, as they can be found in bountiful supply in the coastal waters of the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea. Larger varieties of fish, such as mackerel and sardines, also make good fish sauce, but because they are relatively more expensive due to their value as a food fish, they are seldom used in the commercial production of fish sauce. To make their traditional sauce, islanders ferment anchovies for a year in large wooden vats in dark warehouses, a technique that is said to yield a rich, golden liquid with pungent flavor and degree far superior to rivals from the Vietnamese mainland, where fermentation periods are usually shorter, and other Southeast Asian nations.iiThough cities such as Phan Thiet are known as the cradle of fish sauce and boast many reputable producers, Phu Quoc is widely known as the fish sauce capital. The main reason is that the island’s surrounding waters have an abundance of anchovies, the fish of choice for nuoc mam, close to the shore.iii

The Fish Sauce Industry in Vietnam:

Vietnam stopped selling fish sauce to Europe after 1975, and Thailand took advantage of this opportunity to enter the market. Phu Quoc fish sauce was available in many European countries for a long time until the US pulled out of Vietnam and placed an embargo on Vietnamese products. When Vietnamese fish sauce returned in the mid-1980s, it was too late. Thai fish sauce became familiar with Europeans and Vietnamese.iv

The fishery sector continues to be one of the front-line economic sectors of the developing Vietnamese economy. In 2002 the seafood sector became the highest net export earner of Vietnam as nearly all seafood products are based on raw materials produced in Vietnam. The Vietnamese fishery sector constitutes a prominent part of the economy and thus commands sustained government attention and investment. Seafood processing has a long history in Vietnam, especially within the traditional products such as fish sauce and dried fish and more recently frozen fish items. The country has now more than 260 processing plants of which the majority are located in the south and owned by the state or local government.v

The Re-emergence of an Old taste in a New World:

Situated in Vietnam's southwestern province of Kien Giang, Phu Quoc is known as a pearl island because of its rich marine resources and natural beauty. Phu Quoc island, about 48 km long and covering an area of 573 sq km, is governed as a district of Kien Giang province. Phu Quoc has long been known for its high-quality fish sauce throughout Vietnam as well as in France and some other European countries. Phu Quoc fish sauce, which is produced from the long-jawed anchovy, has a delicate flavor and a high rate of protein (40 per cent). The production of fish sauce has become an important industry of this tear-shaped island. In order to fully tap its marine resources, 96 processing facilities were established to produce some 8.5 million liters of fish sauce annually. Fishing and seafood processing have become the spearheads of this 73,000-person offshore district.vi

Phu Quoc fish sauce, a famous type of dipping sauce in the Vietnamese people’s daily meal, is making its way to re-enter the European market. Phu Quoc's fish sauce has been protected against any imitations in France since May 15 2002. France's ‘Cognac' name of origin has just been registered in Vietnam resulting from a cooperation program between Vietnam and France regarding the protection of names of origin and combating counterfeit goods with the assistance of the European Union (EU). The recent Vietnam-France agreement provides for the protection of registered trademarks of Vietnam's Phu Quoc fish sauce and France's Cognac whisky in the two countries. France has also agreed to help Vietnam protect its fish sauce on the EU market. Vietnam is now trying to complete every procedure for official registration of its Phu Quoc fish sauce trademark in the EU market by next September. The agreement, which clearly shows Vietnam's ability to enforce its intellectual property rights law, was part of the Vietnam-France registered trademark cooperation program conducted over the last four years with help from the EU. Along with the agreement and process of protection Vietnam has proposed the EU to consider granting a certificate of origin (CO) for Phu Quoc fish sauce by 2004. The procedures are in the making under the Viet Nam-France cooperation program's guideline on counterfeit control. The Vietnamese Prime Minister is considering an option to allow the Ministry of Fisheries to issue a regulation on surveillance of fish sauce products carrying the Phu Quoc trademark, reported the Ministry of Trade. One of the articles in the bill being drafted by the Ministry of Fisheries rules that only those fish sauce products coming out the workshops on Phu Quoc island are allowed to use the Phu Quoc trademark.

The Association is seeking registered trade mark protection of its Phu Quoc fish sauce in Japan, the U.S., and other foreign markets as Vietnam has trade ties with about 100 countries and territories around the world. Trademarks of Phu Quoc fish sauce and other famous products of Vietnam have been illegally used by foreign producers because they were not registered and protected worldwide under international intellectual property right laws.vii

3. Related Cases





Tobasco Sauce

4. Author and Date: Mary Nguyen, December 16, 2004

II. Legal Clusters

The legal aspects that concern the Vietnamese Fish Sauce industry is the misuse of the origins, trademarks, or patents taken by other nations. Vietnam has recently faced the issues of the global trade that other nations have laid claim to Vietnamese product and distributing the products without regard to law.

Some fish sauce that is made in other countries is labeled with Vietnamese locations and the abuse of notoriety of the products quality with inferior products. Many trade information found on the import and export of fish sauce points to Thailand as the fish sauce producer but when carefully examining the items one can see that the label is littered with Vietnamese names and writing. In a very small print one can barely identify Thailand as the producing country. Thailand labeling has also opted to calling their sauce, nuoc mam, rather than in the native Thai, nam pla. This misdirection of information has lead people to believe they are buying authentic Vietnamese fish sauce but are getting imitations.


If this case were brought to the WTO or other international legal dispute forums many fish producers would be to point to the fact that fish sauce for centuries has been synonymous with Vietnam. Before trade isolation in 1975 Vietnam had large fish sauce trade with many European nations. They may claim that Thai companies have violated the intellectual property rights of Vietnamese producers. Countries that are members of the WTO must respect the intellectual property rights as outlined in the WTO Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property or TRIPS agreement.

Although Vietnam has not gained full entry into the WTO, France has helped with the issue of fish sauce and the process of accession along with Vietnam. The Working Party on the accession of Viet Nam was established on January 31 1995. Bilateral market access contacts have been initiated. Topics under discussion in the Working Party include: agriculture, the customs system, import licensing, national treatment, SPS and TBT, State trading, trading rights and TRIPS. The projected date of formal entry is tentative but expected in late 2005 to early 2006.viii

According to the WTO TRIPS, a place name is sometimes used to identify a product; this “geographical indication” does not only say where the product was made. More importantly, it identifies the product’s special characteristics, which are the result of the product’s origins. Using the place name where the product was made elsewhere or when it does not have the usual characteristics can mislead consumers, and lead to unfair competition. The TRIPS Agreement says countries have to prevent this misuse of place names.ix

The other issue dealing with fish sauce is the misuse of trademarks. According to the WTO TRIPS the agreement defines what types of signs must be eligible for protection as trademarks, and what the minimum rights conferred on their owners must be. It says that service marks must be protected in the same way as trademarks used for goods. Marks that have become well known in a particular country enjoy additional protection.ix Many other nations have taken advantage of Vietnam’s slow emergence in the global market to use credible names and labels to distribute their products. Many producers on the Phu Quoc Island have incorporated and created a mark to identify authenticity but many nations have neglected this and sold similar products with falsified marks.

Although many nations have come to produce fish sauce it is not just the matter of origin that is important but also the production process. Fish sauce is only authentic when the sauce is a makeup of fermented fish, sauce, and water. Extra additives take away from the sauce and do not make it fish sauce but a mixture that is not in the purest form and taste. The problem if a patent is issued for a production process, then the rights must extend to the product directly obtained from the process. Under certain conditions alleged infringers may be ordered by a court to prove that they have not used the patented process.ix

It is uncertain which method the Vietnamese fish sauce producers can take and apply but this would be a large factor on entry into the WTO dealing with other member states. Vietnam will have to negotiate for their rights, as well as, gain trade relations with other nations. At the moment it seems Vietnam is in a precarious situation to not stir problems that would push back trade and economic progress.

Other Legal Aspect:

Besides the legal aspects of trade and economics fish sauce has had a hard time being defended because of its pungent smell. Air travelers whose nostrils have an aversion to Vietnamese nuoc mam will be pleased to know that, along with handguns, explosives and durian, the pungent fish sauce has been banned from Vietnam Airlines' flights. International aviation laws, it turns out, prohibit strong-smelling and corrosive substances. Smugglers will have their sauce confiscated or face a big fine.x

5. Discourse and Status: Disagreement and Allegation

6. Forum and Scope: Vietnam and Bilateral

7. Decision Breadth: Two: Vietnam and Thailand

8. Legal Standing: Treaty

III. Geographic Clusters

9. Geographic Locations

a. Geographic Domain: Asia

b. Geographic Site: Southeast Asia

c. Geographic Impact: Vietnam

10. Sub-National Factors: Yes

Phu Quoc Island

Location: Phu Quoc Island lies in the Gulf of Thailand, 45 km from Ha Tien and 15 km south of the coast of Cambodia.

Characteristics: Phu Quoc, the largest island in Vietnam, part of Kien Giang Province, is also part of an archipelago consisting of 22 islands of all sizes. The island covers an area of 585 km2 and is 50 km long.

There are 55,000 people inhabiting the island. Phu Quoc is also called the Emerald Island because of its natural treasures and infinite tourism potential. The island is well known for its high-quality fish sauce; Phu Quoc fish sauce smells particularly good since it is made from a small fish, anchovies, with a high level of protein. The island produces 6 million liters of fish sauce every year.

11. Type of Habitat: Ocean

IV. Trade Clusters

12. Type of Measure: Intellectual Property and Licensing

13. Direct v. Indirect Impacts: Direct

14. Relation of Trade Measure to Environmental Impact

a. Directly Related to Product: Yes, Fish Sauce

b. Indirectly Related to Product: The Gulf of Thailand is the main source of anchovies in the region. Phu Quoc Island is surrounded by clean water. Continually fishing in the area could harm other organisms and degrade the high standards of water quality.

c. Not Related to Product: No

d. Related to Process: Yes, Culture. The production of fish sauce is long cycle and there is not constant fishing and producing. The authentic method of production is to fish and ferment fish for a year and would allow for fish to migrate and reproduce. In production no harsh chemical is used to produce the product but sanitary cleanup of the large containers could be problematic. The production of fish sauce has spanned generations and did not deteriorate the area.

15. Trade Product Identification: Fish Sauce

The final product of fish sauce, comes from anchovies, water, and salt. The three components are mixed into large containers to ferment. Three grades of the product are produced. Nhi, highest quality.

16. Economic Data

The world market for fish sauce is believed to be around $300 million. These days, it is very common to find fish sauce in grocery stores here in the US. The majority is produced in Thailand, but several technical issues like trademark, intellectual property, and place of origin must be answered to make this business fair and equal in the producing country.xi

Fishery plays an important role in the world economy at large and Vietnamese economy in particular. In Vietnam, fishery now provides an important source of food for domestic consumption and contributes significantly to exports (MOF). One of the main obstacles for Vietnam to increase trade is to regain many of the food products to be sold by Vietnam rather than overseas corporations working in other nations. Thailand gained a large advantage in the region with so many nations falling behind modern advances after Communism swept the area. With an emergence of trade of fish sauce not much data is found. Vietnam’s Ministry of Fisheries have place fish sauce in the processed seafood sector. Under processed seafood can be frozen or canned fish, fish sauce, fish paste, and a variety of by products that are not fresh but manufactured.

The fishery sector continues to be one of the front-line economic sectors of the developing Vietnamese economy. In 2002 the seafood sector became the highest net export earner of Vietnam as nearly all seafood products are based on raw materials produced in Vietnam. The Vietnamese fishery sector constitutes a prominent part of the economy and thus commands sustained government attention and investment.

Fish sauce is called nuoc mam in Vietnam, patis in the Philippines, prahoc in Cambodia, and nam la by Thailand. Although the products are called the same the production and taste vary by countries. The disticntion of good fish sauce is the issue of geographic indication. This condiment from salted fish brewed in tanks for years is produced not only in Vietnam but also in other Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Cambodia and the Philippines. However, only Vietnam and Thailand are now exporting their fish sauce to European countries. To market their fish sauce easily, Thai producers rarely use the words nam la but nuoc mam instead. They also brand the sauce in Vietnamese such as Co Ba (Miss Ba), Ca Com (anchovy), Viet Huong (a proper name), Ba Con Ca (three fish), Ba Con Cua (three crabs) and Con Muc (squid). Each country has a different method of production but many would say the traditional method is the reason for quality taste that the Vietnamese for generations has produced.

Thai fish sauce is sold in many stores in Paris, even at supermarkets and hypermarkets heavily frequented by locals such as the Carrefour, Cora, Champion, Franprix and MonoPrix. Meanwhile, Vietnamese fish sauce is only available at groceries and food stores run by Asians, mainly the Chinese, and their main customers are the Vietnamese, Chinese, Cambodians and Laotians. The Phu Quoc fish sauce bears the name of only two producers, Hung Thanh and Thanh Ha, but the words are printed in small letters on the back side of the label while the words Phu Quoc and the name of importers like Paris Store and Asia Mekong are printed clearly in big letters on the front of the label. Thanh Ha and Hung Thanh are currently two unique Vietnamese fish sauce producers recognized for compling with the European Union food hygiene standards. They export some half a million liters a year, mainly to the EU.iv At the current situation many Thai producing fish sauce companies continue to distribute their products under Phu Quoc without being recognized nor produced in the area. The EU has not regulated the abuses of false labeling. Calling a product from the region does not make the product authentic.

Since the final withdrawal of its troops from Cambodia in 1989, Vietnam has emerged from the international isolation that followed its invasion of Cambodia at end-1978. Within months of the Paris Agreement on Cambodia of October 1991, Vietnam established diplomatic and economic relations with most of the countries of Western Europe and East Asia, including China. Vietnam’s “multi-directional” diplomacy has been explicitly based on its perception of growing global economic interdependence. Its integration into the regional and global economy has been formalized through membership of international organizations. The most important of these is ASEAN, which Vietnam joined in July 1995. The Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum admitted Vietnam in November 1998, and Vietnam is now actively pursuing membership of the World Trade Organization (WTO), to which it is likely to be admitted by 2006 (EIU).

Seafood exports continue to rise as demand particularly in the USA and the Asian markets continue to increase. In general, the seafood enterprises are facing an increased focus on environmental and quality issues. A number of seafood consignments to EU were retained in the port of entry during 2002, because they failed to comply with EU standards on antibiotic residues. The zero tolerance imposed on seafood products with regard to antibiotic residues have become increasingly difficult for the seafood producers in Vietnam to comply with as the equipment for detecting such substances now are able to detect extremely low quantities. The Vietnamese processing industry have to a large extent succeeded in bringing an end to the use of antibiotics in the factories to meet EU and WTO phytosanitary measures, but problems remain with regard to use of antibiotics by the suppliers of raw materials (aquaculture farmers, fishing vessels and handling agents between suppliers and the processing factories).

Seafood processing has a long history in Vietnam, especially within the traditional products such as fish sauce and dried fish and more recently frozen fish items. The country has now more than 260 processing plants of which the majority are located in the south and owned by the state or local government. At the beginning of 2003, 68 enterprises have been approved for export to the EU, and an even higher number is now complying with the quality standards for exporting to the US. Especially cold storage and other technology inputs are still needed to ensure that the industry can sustain the fast track development. It is also in this area that several international companies have successfully entered into Vietnam in the past.iv

By applying the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) into the method of making fish, Vietnamese seafood businesses have entered many markets worldwide. HACCP was designed to ensure the highest level of food safety in many foreign markets. With the exchange of foods between nations the implementation of HACCP tries to maintain a system of quality. The country now has around 100 seafood enterprises listed in the European Union market, an increase of 31 percent over the year 2000. Viet Nam earned over 2 billion USD from seafood exports in 2002, 2.24 billion USD in 2003 and expects to register 2.5-2.6 billion USD this year.xii

After Japan imposed a ban on products with sodium benzoate, an important ingredient in fish sauces, Tentay Food Sauces remains the only Philippine fish sauce manufacturing company to meet the Japan’s strict standards for preservatives and food additives. The company produces two million cases of fish sauce each month, which 30% of the fish sauce goes to the export market, mainly the United States, Australia, Europe and Israel. The United States, with its large Filipino and Asian communities, accounts for almost 50% of its shipments.xiii

Japanese fish sauce may not be as widely known as its counterparts from Thailand and Vietnam, but demand for it is growing sharply on the heels of the popularity of ethnic cuisine in Japan. For years, Japanese fish sauce had been eclipsed by the ever-popular soy sauce, and the dominance on the domestic market of Thailand's Nam pla-brand fish sauce and Vietnam's Nuoc Mam. But consumer demand for natural foods and the spread of ethnic dishes, including those originating in Thailand and Vietnam, have encouraged many people turned off by the strong smell that characterizes most fish sauces to embrace the domestic version. Japanese fish sauce is now being used in some processed foods and is increasingly appearing on dining tables. It is generally made from salted fresh fish and shellfish that are soaked in containers, fermented and filtered.

Ishikawa prefectural officials said that after just scraping by, their local fish sauce manufacturers are staging a comeback, with output soaring from about 33 tons in 1987 to some 200 tons last year. The town of Echizen, Fukui Prefecture, has come up with a new sauce called "totodashi" based on codfish remains and squid innards. Last year more than 10,000 bottles of totodashi were produced. "It is a robust fish sauce," said Kihei Kabeshita, secretary general of the Echizen Chamber of Commerce and Industry. "It does not smell and is rather close to ordinary (soy) sauce." The town harvests a wealth of fish and shellfish, including crabs, sardines and squid. However, food-processing firms previously threw away large quantities of internal organs and fish residue. Domestic production of fish sauce is estimated at 1,000 tons, while imports are said to total 5,000 tons, double the volume shipped to Japan five years ago.xiv

17. Impact of Trade Restriction:

Thailand Products will be affected because they will not be able to use the labels that identify with Vietnamese fish sauce. The consumers will be affected but there would also be more availability and variety of products from Vietnam. The price of fish sauce would remain relatively equal to current prices.

18. Industry Sector: Foods

19. Exporters and Importers: Vietnam and others

Thailand and Vietnam are the more well known fish sauce producing and exporting countries. Then Laos is third, Cambodia is fourth, Singapore is fifth, Philippines is sixth, Malaysia is seventh, China is eighth, and Hong Kong is ninth. The Main import countries for this unique sauce is the United States and many Asian nations. Although many countries produce the sauce in Asia production does not meet the needs of consumption. China, Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, Laos, and others make a small portion of fish sauce but import from Thailand and Vietnam. With the trade agreements between the EU and Asia many European nations have begun to form a relationship to widen the range of sauces that was stopped in the late 1970’s. After the United States and Asian nations Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, the Netherlands, and EU nations make-up most of the importing nations of fish sauce.

V. Environment Clusters

20. Environmental Problem Type: Species Loss Sea

Vietnam is a sea bordering country featuring high biodiversity and rich fishery resources with more than 2,030 fish species, 225 shrimp species, 653 algae species, 35 cuttlefish species, 5 turtle species and 12 snake species. In addition, there are also abalone, pearl oysters, blood ark-shells, colorful coral and other endemic species. This is the basis for fisheries development at the present time and for future generations.

Some rare and precious species have sharply decreased in number and risk extinction. In less than 10 years, from 1989 to 1997, the number of threatened and endangered species sharply increased from 10 to 135 species, including 78 species living in the sea. In some marine areas of Vietnam, especially in shallow waters, fisheries exploitation has reached a critical level. Many economically valuable fish species in the fishing zones are facing over-exploitation. Fisheries production gradually increases from year to year but the fishing productivity (CPUE) has decreased noticeably in recent years. Therefore, effective and sustainable management of fisheries resources is very important and should be applied urgently to fisheries development.

The Vietnamese fisheries sector first started marine and coastal biodiversity protection activities in 1960. 20 marine and coastal areas were designated for protection in the period from 2000 to 2001. 15 areas will be proposed as marine protected areas. The system of policies, laws and the establishment of fisheries management organizations with the initial effective operations are the visible evidence.xv

Over 300 species of scleractinian corals are found in Vietnam’s coastal waters with 277 species belonging to 72 genera identified in the south, compared with the less diverse areas in the north of the country with 165 species in 52 genera. Fourteen sea-grass species have been recorded in the shallow coastal waters of Vietnam, with species diversity increasing from the north with nine species, and to the south with 13. There are around 32 true mangrove species and another 32 associate mangrove species.

Marine turtles include the Green (Chelonia mydas), the Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), the Loggerhead (Caretta olivacea) and the Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), all of which have traditional nesting sites along the coast. Despite legal protection, the turtles are still hunted and their eggs collected. Northern populations are almost wiped out so most of the catch now comes from the south and mainly on islands and waters far from the mainland. They are very rare along the coast now except at Con Dao islands where they are protected by the National Park. Today, the endangered Dugong (Dugong dugon) is known to inhabit the waters of Con Dao islands. A dugong was captured near Nha Trang in 1962, and the animals were previously known to occur in the Tonkin Gulf, Phu Quoc islands of Thailand Gulf. Sixteen Cetaceans including one baleen whale and 15 toothed whales (dolphins and porpoises) have thus far been sighted in Vietnamese waters, though other species are likely to occur.xvi

The Phu Quoc Island will be included in national showcase of marine protection. The proposal was put forward during a working session held between the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, the Nha Trang and Hai Phong Oceanography Institutes, and Southern Kien Giang Provincial People's Committee.

The project aims to collect information and data on the area's eco-system, raise people's awareness of the need to protect the environment and natural resources, and improve the local standard of living. It is also further intended to accelerate extensive cooperation efforts to protect the East Sea environment.

Vietnam is one of seven South and Southeast Asian nations involved in a project to reverse degradation trends in the East Sea and the Gulf of Thailand. The project is funded by the United Nations Environment Program and the Global Environment Fund. Phu Quoc island is home to large coral reefs, pearl producing oysters, fish and nine species of seaweed, which feed several endangered species and sea turtles.vii

21. Name, Type, and Diversity of Species

Name: Anchovy

Type: Small fish

Diversity: The family includes 16 genera and over 130 species

22. Resource Impact and Effect: Low and Regulatory

23. Urgency and Lifetime: Low and 100s of Years

24. Substitutes: Like products


VI. Other Factors

25. Culture: Yes

As a young girl, Dang Thi Hoa, a 60-year-old native of the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc, heard stories of how her grandmother used to sail to nearby Cambodia to sell a popular sauce that islanders, including her family, made from fermented anchovies. Decades on, Mrs Hoa, her close relatives and nearly 80 other island families still prosper by producing and selling the pungent, protein- rich sauce to households across Vietnam. Salty fish sauce, or nuoc mam, is a daily staple and that from Phu Quoc is prized above all others. To make their traditional sauce, islanders ferment anchovies for a year in massive wooden vats in dark warehouses, a technique that is said to yield a rich, golden liquid with pungent flavour and nuances far superior to rivals from the Vietnamese mainland, where fermentation periods are usually shorter. But while their faithful adherence to traditional production methods has made Phu Quoc nuoc mam a cherished Vietnamese household name, islanders have begun to bottle and sell their own product in their own, which were once sent in bulk to mainland traders to bottle and sell under other names.ii

The Hung Thanh fish sauce company, specializing in making fish sauce of 25-40 percent protein, has become increasingly well known. Director of the Hung Thanh Company, Dang Van Thoi, said he is the fourth generation of his family involved in producing fish sauce using traditional methods since the company was founded in 1895. Earlier, under the French colonialists' regime, the Hung Thanh Company exported its fish sauce to France and other European countries. In recent years, with determination to revive his ancestors’ traditional craft, Thoi and his family have restored the operation of a production workshop in Duong Dong Township. The workshop is capable of producing one million liters of fish sauce from anchovies a year. Since 2001, the Hung Thanh Company has bottled and shipped 400,000 liters of fish sauce annually to Europe and Japan. Hung Thanh was among ten Vietnamese fish sauce producers that have been recognized as meeting the HACCP international standard on food safety and hygiene, and its fish sauce won several gold medals at the annual local Vietfish fairs.

To stand firm in the markets, the Phu Quoc Fish-Sauce Manufactures' Association has come into being. Quite a few of them have integrated into big companies to be powerful enough for strong development, entering into joint ventures with foreigners in bottling and marketing of products. Today, the traditional manufacturers, the fishermen and the traders have joined together in their enterprises, abiding by all regulations on the manufacture of fish sauce, preserving its quality and its "Nuoc Mam Phu Quoc" Trademark. Under State protection the age-old dipping sauce produced on the pearl-island of the south will continue for generations to come.xvii

When I was growing up my mother would tell me stories about life in Vietnam. Her story of daily life in Vietnam would center on the festivals and holidays that including cooking. Vietnamese pride themselves for having a unique blend of foods and tastes. When celebrating anything Vietnamese tend to make large banquets with many dishes, but everyday cannot be a special day of food. My mother would tell me the two things a person will always find in any Vietnamese person’s kitchen is rice and fish sauce. You can make a meal out of these two essential items. My mother does not know the history of fish sauce but see cannot remember a day without fish sauce. Since she has immigrated to the United States she continues to follow the traditions as well as created new blends in her cooking in Western foods. She has tried several companies and continues to miss the authentic taste. It took several years to find the right product but she still remembers that there are only several regions, Phu Quoc and Phan Thiet, which are famous for their fish sauce. While shopping at local Asian markets she continues to search for the right sauce that fits our palates. There have been several times when she would buy a bottle that was labeled in Vietnamese yet fails to taste anything like the real product.

26. Trans-Boundary Issues: No

Vietnam for decades has provided the surrounding areas with the quality fish sauce. During the isolation of many nations Vietnam did not enter the market directly but through trade “tunnels” with others. Vietnam engaged trade with Thailand to export the fish sauce under foreign companies and identities. The time has passed away for giving away the namesake of the fish sauce one cultural impact is impact on the Phu Quoc Island and their residents.

27. Rights: No

28. Relevant Literature


ii. Vietnamese Embassy in the United States

iii. Dipping Delicacy

iv. VN-style

v. Italian Embassy in Vietnam

vi. US-Vietnam Trade Council

vii. Voice of Vietnam

viii WTO-Vietnam

ix. WTO-Intellectual Property Rights

x. Time-Asia

xi. HMSC Newsletter

xii. BVOM

xiii. OneOcean

xiv. Japan Times

xv. Protected areas and development

xvi. Marine Protected Areas in Southeast Asia

xvii. Phu Quoc Nuoc Mam Trademark