Pêche, Aquaculture et Ecosystèmes Marins
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Fish bags trialed as an alternative to eskies for tuna fisheries

bags1The start of Kiribati Fish Limited (KFL) operations in 2012 opened up a guaranteed fish market for Tarawa-based local fishermen. Unfortunately, however, local Kiribati fishermen have a problem catching big tuna (10 kg and up.) It is challenging to them, both in terms of selling at roadside markets and fitting such big fish into the standard ice bins (eskies) that all the fishermen’s boats have on board.



With the new fish opportunity at the KFL shore-based fish exporting facility, local fishermen needed to address their fish-holding capacity on their small, locally made boats, especially as KFL stressed the importance of the fishermen’s ability to target bigger tuna (20 kg and up), and the need for knowledge and awareness of post-harvest requirements, particularly proper fish handling and preservation on board.


Operations Manager, Mr Li, commented, 'We want to buy all the local fishermen’s catch but these need to be good quality fish and must quickly be put on ice after they are caught.'


The SPC/DevFish2 project stepped in and facilitated a small fishing operation training in Tarawa. Local fishermen were taught the skills and techniques of catching and processing fish, which will lead to good quality products that meet competent authority requirements for export.

One drawback that was noticed during the training was that when fishermen using the different fishing techniques caught bigger tuna (ten kilos and up), these fish would not fit into the standard eskies that all the fishermen’s boats had.

This was a very critical problem the fishermen faced as soon as they brought their prize-sized fish on board. The problem is that the boats are big enough for only 50 liters eskies. The fish ends up with just the head in the esky whilst half the fish sticks out. Prize-size fish can lose up to 20% of its body weight in dehydration if the fish is not maintained adequately in a cool environment. KFL’s buying price is determined by fish size, quality and weight.

In the ensuing SFO training in Kiritimati, the SPC/DevFish2 project had fish bags made and trialed as an alternative to eskies for the small scale artisanal fisheries.

It was realised immediately that:

  • the bags were appropriate for small boats that do not have room for ice bins – no bulky esky taking up precious deck space;
  • the durable, insulated bags held ice for the duration of a one-day fishing trip;
  • the bags could hold the larger catches (in this case, 20 kg tuna);
  • these vinyl-coated bags were a great way to hold the ice, store the catch, keep it cool and keep it off the deck;
  • at the end of the fishing trip, after washing the bag and drying it thoroughly, it was easily collapsed for storage.


The problematic situation of Kiribati small boats’ holding and chilling whole tuna can be addressed through this alternative equipment.




The fish bags were considered very suitable for the larger Kiribati motor-powered outrigger canoe (KIR5A design) and the bags (2 m x 1 m) fitted very well in the middle of the hull.


Acting Director of Fisheries, Raikon Tumoa, said, ‘This is very important improvement.  It will have a tremendous positive impact on the way our fishermen catch and process fish; it will lead to good quality products that meet the requirements for export.’

A disadvantage noted was that the prototype bags were possibly a bit difficult to clean and sanitise thoroughly as the zip runs only along the top edge and not down the sides as well. It was decided to ask local suppliers in the region to produce bags with fewer stitches and corners and to use smooth material for the bag lining. It is important to produce good quality bags at the most cost-effective price so that fishermen will not be discouraged from purchasing them.

For the production of the prototypes, SPC/DevFish2 liaised with a manufacturer in Fiji. The prototype cost FJD 402.50. Three different shapes and sizes were made. With bigger orders, competitive prices can be offered.

Recently (July 2013) a local Kiribati shop in Tarawa has begun selling bags ordered from Japan for AUD 400. They are smaller than the 2 m x 1 m bags. Fishing gear shops in Australia and New Zealand are selling 1 m x 0.8 m bags for around AUD 300.

An improvement in the quality of the bags should be one aspect of assistance that regional projects and donors could offer to assist small-scale tuna supplying operations become export oriented markets.




For further information please contact Jonathan Manieva

Mise à jour le Jeudi, 17 Octobre 2019 14:32