| || || Ram, Ravinesh|
| || || Impacts of harvest and post harvest processing methods on qulaity and value of beche-de-mer in Fiji Islands|
Institution: University of the South Pacific.
Call No.: pac In Process
Abstract: Holothurians have been harvested in Fiji for more than 100 years. Sea cucumber species commonly harvested in Fiji belong to the genera Holothuria, Actinopyga, Stichopus, Thelenota and Bohadschia. There are at least 18 commercial species harvested every year in Fiji. The main target species are H. fuscogilva, H. whitmaei and H. scabra although H. scabra is currently banned from export in Fiji. Increasing demands of dried sea cucumber (bêche-de-mer) from Asian markets has resulted in high fishing pressure and remaining stocks are depleted with juvenile sea cucumbers a significant target for harvest. Signs are now showing that sea cucumbers are becoming largely over exploited on the reefs around Fiji Islands. This thesis studied the impacts of harvest and processing methods on quality and value of bêche-de-mer in Fiji Islands. The sites of investigation included the east and west Viti Levu, north and south Vanua Levu and two outer islands in the Lau group. An exporter of bêchede- mer was also involved in this study to determine the value loss of products processed locally and value loss for international sale. The findings revealed that poor processing methods contributed significantly to value loss of dry bêche-de-mer product. The knowledge and poor understanding of processing techniques by the fishers around Fiji is a key factor linked to this loss in value. First boiling after harvest, improper cutting/gutting and smoke curing are the processes that were identified to be the main problematical areas of processing leading to revenue losses. Additionally, harvesting and processing of undersized species is also affecting the value of the product. Sea cucumber species H. fuscogilva, S. hermanni and S. chloronotus were found to be the more difficult species to handle post capture and for processing. Poorly processed products traded by the fishers resulted in the fishers obtaining a difference in value of almost 20–30% of the maximum price offered for well-processed products. These products when sold overseas by the main agents in Fiji received a value at a difference of 10–20% of the maximum prices offered by species and grade. The prices that are received by the main agents often resemble the prices offered for grade “B” products with large difference observed for high value species. viii With concerns over diminishing stocks on the reef, the minimum export size limit (dry length) of 7.62 centimetres was established by the Fiji government on all species. It was hoped this would limit the harvesting of undersized species from the reefs. For stock management, chiefs have also placed bans on harvesting sea cucumbers from some reefs in Fiji for periods of three to five years. This research raised concerns for over the lack of general awareness and information on improvements in processing techniques at fisher level and sea cucumber’s general significance in the coastal ecosystem. Knowledge of the reproductive biology of commercial sea cucumber species and effective management is essential for future sustainability of bêche-de-mer production in Fiji Islands. Key – words: Bêche-de-mer, Sea cucumber, Processing, Value, Quality, Management