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SURVEY OF COMMERCIAL SEAWEEDS IN SOUTH-EAST VITI LEVU (FIJI ISLANDS): A Preliminary Study on Farming Potential of Seaweed Species Present in Fiji



The Workplan for the FAO South Pacific Aquaculture Development Project (Phase II) identified Seaweed Farming Development among project activities to be considered during the phase II period, which commenced in 1994. Seaweed project requirements include “reassessment of seaweed farming potential” and “study on export potential of cultivable local seaweed species with market analysis and feasibility study of its value adding”; the Workplan gives both of these requirements a region-wide focus.

The project described in this report examines the export potential of local Fiji seaweed species found in the Suva and Rewa/Tailevu regions. It was initiated by a request for development assistance from Nabouciwa Village Development Project (Rewa delta) that was channelled through the Fiji Trade and Investment Board. The South Pacific Aquaculture Development Project and the Fiji Fisheries Division (MAFF) agreed to support the project, and decided to expand its scope from village-level to a province-wide level that could benefit Fiji nationally as well as meet the project requirements set out in the Phase II Workplan.

The project proceeded in two stages. The first stage covered literature review, field surveys, identification of species found, and preparation of seaweed samples for phycocolloid analysis, with a draft report to be completed by 14 April 1995. The second stage was a preliminary analysis of market potentials for the species found, to be reported after receipt of the results of laboratory tests conducted overseas. The project's main focus was to be on Gracilaria seaweeds because of their known economic importance in other countries, but other Fiji species with commercial potential were also investigated.

Seaweeds have a variety of economic uses, such as food for human consumption, food for agricultured (for example, cattle) or aquacultured (for example, abalone) animals, as a component of fertilisers, and as a source of phycocolloids for use in foods, cosmetics, brewing of beer, gel-electrophoresis (DNA-fingerprinting) and as fasteners for dyes in textile industries. This project examines Fiji's seaweeds with two main uses in mind; as sources of phycocolloids, and as food for human consumption.

If results are encouraging for any of the species studied, then further work can be planned on technical and socio-economic aspects of seaweed utilisation in Fiji, with the ultimate aim of establishing a new industry in the rural sector. It will be necessary to proceed step by step, to guard against unreal expectations, and to halt further expenditure of resources if at any time it is shown that utilisation of these seaweeds will not be commercially viable.

1 Marine Studies Programme, University of the South Pacific, Private Mail Bag, Suva, Fiji

2 Fisheries Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries & Forests, Fiji

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