By Sangeeta Mangubhai
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Department of Fisheries staff members are partnering up to undertake a value chain analysis of the sea cucumber fishery in Fiji. While it might sound complicated it really isn’t. Basically a value chain is the full range of activities required to bring a product from its conception, through the different phases of production, to delivery to final customers. What this means for sea cucumbers, it is the full range of activities from the harvesting of the sea cucumbers, through to the processing, packaging, transportation, and to its final consumption by people, whether it be in Fiji or overseas.
A value chain analysis helps us better understand the key consumers and how they like their product For example, what species do consumers want, and is there a particular standard they expect? Value chain analysis also helps us identify who are the key players in the industry and what are their roles and relationships to each other.
Armed with this information, the Department of Fisheries, can work with all those involved in the fishery to identify opportunities and constraints to industry growth and competitiveness in Fiji. And ultimately if we understand how markets work around particular fisheries like sea cucumbers, we can take the right actions or put the right policies in place that ensures our fisheries are sustainable.
To launch this importance piece of work for Fiji, WCS and Department of Fisheries participated in a two-day training in Suva on the main island of Viti Levu, and Labasa on the island of Vanua Levu. A questionnaire has specifically been developed to capture information on the sea cucumber fishery. The survey will be conducted throughout many of the districts in Bua Province, and one of the districts in the adjacent Cakaudrove Province.
There is much excitement amongst the team as we head out to Natuvu village, loaded up with our questionnaires, snorkeling gear and food (and toilet paper, because there are some things I cannot live without!!). Internet permitting, I will be live blogging from the field sharing with you our findings, and what we learn about this important fishery in Fiji.