Reducing post-harvest losses in artisanal fishing


15-February-2013

High temperatures in Seychelles means that fish can spoil quite easily if not preserved by some means while at landing sites or waiting to be sold

Particularly in tropical countries like the Seychelles, high temperatures mean that fish can spoil while still in the boat, at landing sites, during storage or processing, on the way to market and while waiting to be sold.

In Africa, some estimates put post-harvest losses at 20 to 25 percent, and sometimes as high as 50 percent.

In Seychelles, post-harvest losses are minimal but it is apparent if one observes fish being unloaded at times where fishermen do not observe good hygienic practices. However, some artisanal fishermen do understand the principles behind post-harvest losses and have made some effort to try and reduce it.

This can be seen at the Victoria fish market where fishermen (fishmongers) use ice to preserve the quality of fish that are waiting to be sold.
Post-harvest losses are divided into physical and economic losses.

Physical losses in the artisanal fishery sector are less than 5 percent. High losses occur occasionally (a whole day's catch may be lost) but as a percentage of the annual catch this would only be in the order of 1 to 2 percent.

Before a fish spoils completely it could be processed by smoking or salting. This was being practiced even in the old days in Seychelles whereby fish was smoked (boukannen) and salted which is still being done today.

On the other hand, economic losses as lost value because of lower quality, include poor storage and oversupplying the market. Economic losses may impact the fishermen quite harshly as it will lower the income from the fish that were caught. This is a problem for artisanal fishermen in Seychelles as operational costs (fuel, traps and hooks) may be high for them and they cannot afford to lose money over post-harvest losses.

Minimising post-harvest losses is therefore one key to increasing revenues and food security, without intensifying the fishing effort.
Improved processing techniques is a large part of the answer. Low-cost techniques have been developed by many fishing communities, most often by the women, who are mainly responsible for the fish after it is landed.

Seychelles has embarked on a quest to improve its overall food security status, and reducing post-harvest losses will play a major role in achieving this in the fisheries sector.

Better post-harvesting techniques and improved storage are key to reducing post-harvest losses in Seychelles.
Fish is an important food item in Seychelles and is mainly supplied by artisanal fishermen and processors. Fish that cannot be sold fresh or on the same day must be preserved by some means. Much improvement in storage facilities such as chest freezers which provides adequate environment to preserve fish for a prolonged period of time as compared to the past where salting and smoking were the only means of storage. Much has been done to improve fish handling in Seychelles but a lot more can be done to improve it further and achieve the greater goal of improving our food security status.

(Adapted from FAO)

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