DNA barcoding based on a fragment of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) gene is widely applied in species identification and biodiversity studies. The aim of this study was to establish a comprehensive barcoding database of coastal ray-finned fishes in Vietnam. A total of 3,638 specimens were collected from fish landing sites in northern, central and southern Vietnam. Seven hundred and sixty-five COI sequences of ray-finned fishes were generated, belonging to 458 species, 273 genera, 113 families and 43 orders. A total of 59 species were newly recorded in Vietnam and sequences of six species were new to the Genbank and BOLD online databases. Only 32 species cannot be annotated to species level because difficulty in morphological identifications and their Kimura-2-Parameter (K2P) genetic distances to most similar sequences were more than 2%. Moreover, intra-specific genetic distances in some species are also higher than 2%, implying the existence of putative cryptic species. The mean K2P genetic distances within species, genera, families, orders and classes were 0.34%, 12.14%, 17.39%, 21.42%, and 24.80, respectively. Species compositions are quite different with only 16 common species among northern, central and southern Vietnam. This may attribute to multiple habitats and environmental factors across the 3,260 km Vietnamese coastline. Our results confirmed that DNA barcoding is an efficient and reliable tool for coastal fish identification in Vietnam, and also established a reliable DNA barcode reference library for these fishes. DNA barcodes will contribute to future efforts to achieve better monitoring, conservation, and management of fisheries in Vietnam.

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