Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and Department of Fisheries staff are partnering up a second time this year to look at seafood supply chains in Fiji. Learning from our experience with the sea cucumbers, we are conducting a series of surveys to understand and map out the mud crab fishery in Bua Province all the way from the fisher to consumer.

Mud crabs (or qari as they are known locally), are a high value species that is popular in Fiji.There is almost nothing known about the fishery in Fiji, which is dominated by women fishers. The last known data on catch volumes for example, comes from the 1980s.

The questionnaire is designed to help understand the key consumers and how they like their product. For example, is there a particular size or quality that is expected? When is demand highest? And 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 mud crabs, we can take the right actions or put the right policies in place that ensures our fisheries are sustainable.

The first round of surveys was done in 19 villages across 8 districts in Vanua Levu over a ten day period. While Margaret Fox who leads WCS’ Women in Fisheries Program met with both men and women fishers to ask them the catching and sale of mud crabs, while biologist Yashika Nand headed out to the mangroves to look at the size and species composition of these forest areas. Over the next few weeks Yashika will be putting together a study to assess the health of mud crab populations in Bua Province.

Words by Sangeeta Mangubhai and images by Samuela Ulacake/VCreative