A project focused on the freshwater kai fishery in the Village of Muana in Rewa could result in Fiji Kai entering international markets at some time in the future.
The project, undertaken by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other partner organisations including the Secretariat of the Pacific Community and the Institute of Applied Sciences (IAS) at USP seeks to assess the level of bacterial build up in kai from the project site, and also look at ways the build up can be reduced.
Kai is one of the biggest sources of protein in inshore fisheries and while the project site is based in Muana — kai can be found around much of Fiji's major river systems and in the 3000 square kilometer Rewa River Catchment Area.
In Muana, the money gained from roadside selling of kai has put children through school and put food on the table for the villagers.
It is also unique in that fishing for kai is almost completely dominated by women.
IUCN/SPC consultant Viliame Waqalevu says the project seeks to ensure the kai on sale is safe for human consumption — and in the long run open more markets for the women.
"One part is to conduct the social survey at the village just to understand the fishing practices, and to determine any links between fishing activity and prevailing conditions that may be relevant to an assessment of human health risks in kai," Mr Waqalevu said.
"We also want to know whether they soak the kai they eat, have there been incidences where people have gotten sick from eating the kai they have sold or eaten at home."
He explained tests are also carried out on the kai flesh and the water they are being fished from for the presence and/or absence of bacteria found in human and animal wastes such as E.Coli and the typhoid causing bacteria, Salmonella.
The kai are also placed in a land-based depuration system to test whether the levels of bacterial build up in the kai can be brought down.
This year the theme for World Wetlands Day is "Wetlands for our Future" a theme that resonates with the things the sale of kai has managed to do for the people of Muana.
The project is being funded by the French Pacific Fund and will end in May of this year.
This article was written by Tevita Vuibau for the Fiji Times.
For more information on this project please contact Dr. Milika Sobey at [email protected]