From Sea to Export: Buru Fishers Learn Best Practices to Maintain Catch Quality

by Aqidah Nurul Wahidah

The processor washes and dries product packaging as part of its waste handling procedure.

Recognizing the importance of maintaining the quality of tuna, Indonesia’s second-largest fishery commodity for export, MDPI is dedicated to building the capacity of fishers to enhance the quality of their catch. Tuna’s migration route spans throughout Indonesia’s coastal, territorial, and exclusive economic zone waters, ranging from the south waters of Java to the eastern waters.

Located in the Maluku province in eastern Indonesia, the island of Buru holds immense potential for tuna fishing. Fishers in Buru have traditionally used the eco-friendly handline method to catch tuna. Tuna’s high market value makes it a primary source of income for many in the local community.

However, the challenge lies in ensuring proper tuna handling to prevent an irreversible a decline in quality, which would inevitably impact the selling price.

In response to this issue, MDPI facilitates fish quality and handling best practices  training sessions, as well as visits to fish processing facilities, allowing fishers to observe fish handling techniques to preserve the quality of their catch.

The process

In July 2023, MDPI organized a visit for 14 members of Buru Fishers’ Associations to Harta Samudra (Harsam), a fish processor and supplier. Harsam is one of the suppliers buying tuna from local fishers in Buru, practicing responsible tuna sourcing and exporting to over 10 countries worldwide.

Before entering the processing facility, fishers were briefed on the importance of hygiene and safety in fish handling. Following safety protocols, they removed personal accessories, wore personal protective equipment, and underwent sterilization.

Using TraceTales™, staff label tuna products with unique traceability codes.

Fishers witnessed the rigorous stages of tuna processing for their catch. The loins were trimmed, weighed, and labelled with unique traceability codes using TraceTales™ technology. These labelled loins will then undergo thorough cleaning, before being cut into smaller parts, laboratory-tested, and properly stored in preparation for export.

Oei Eng San, the head of Harsam’s branch in Buru, welcomed the fishers’ interest in learning and highlighted, “This visit will provide transparency for fishers on how we handle their catch at Harta Samudra.”

San also shared his hope for a shared commitment to prioritizing fish quality within Harsam’s supply chain. He emphasized the need to ensure fish quality from hook to plate.

Also read: MDPI, Anova, and Harta Samudra Receives Innovation Award 2019 for TraceTales.

Lesson learned

Sugen Kapoa, a local fisher from Latamiha Fisher Association.

Sugen Kapoa, a member of the Latamiha Fishers’ Association, expressed his joy after seeing the proper handling of his tuna before reaching consumers. Observing the rigorous processing standards at Harsam inspired him to adopt disciplined practices in handling his catch: “I am now aware how important it is to maintain fish quality in the field”.

Rustam Tuharea, a local fisher and Head of the Fair Trade Buru Committee.

Rustam Tuharea, Head of the Fair Trade Buru Committee, echoed this sentiment, expressing gratitude after witnessing how his catch is processed under ecolabel standards. He also learned several techniques to prevent quality decrease in his catch. Rustam hoped that this learning experience would enhance awareness among fishers and foster trust between fishers and suppliers.

Upon their return, the 14 fishers are committed to sharing their experiences and newfound knowledge with fellow association members. This collective effort aims to ensure widespread awareness and adherence to best practices, ultimately enhancing the quality of fishers’ catches.