Health N’ Delft: New way of drying fish attracts health-conscious market for Delft Island fishers

Location: Delft Island, Sri Lanka. 3rd Sep 2015

MFF SGF project introduced a new method of drying fish to fisher women of the Delft Island.

Delft (also known as Neduntivu) is an island in the Palk Strait, northern Sri Lanka. With a land area of 4,763 ha  (49.2 km²), it is the second largest island lying within the territorial waters of Sri Lanka and is approximately 10km away from the mainland.  The island has a population of 4,502, belonging to 1,309 families. About 1,200 individuals in 560 families are engaged in fishing as their main livelihood.

Freezer facilities to store fish catch are not available in the island. Fishers are forced to sell the day’s catch to buyers from outside the island and mostly on the buyers’ terms. Some of their catch does not even get sold. This scenario severely affects the quality of life and livelihood of fishers and their families.     

Drying surplus fish catch and low priced fish varieties are some ways to increase fishers’ income. At present there are 80 families engaged in dry fish processing using traditional methods. Unfortunately, because of using too much salt and of practicing old fish-drying methods (mainly leaving the fish to sun-dry on a plastic sheet on the ground) the final product is often too salty and unhygienic.

In order to provide a better option to fish drying Sevalanka Foundation (SF), with the support of the Small Grant Facility of the Mangroves for the Future (MFF), introduced a new fish processing method to the Delft Island as a pilot with 40 fisher women participating. This method has been introduced by the Japan Nippon Foundation.  Fisher women have been selected with the assistance of the Delft Fisheries Federation and the Grama Niladaries (Village Heads) and provided with necessary training and equipment. 

The new practice ensures effective and more hygienic dried fish. After cleaning, fish are soaked for an hour in 20% salt solution and sun-dried on a specially designed drying stand for about three days. This process ensures almost no external contamination.  Talang Queenfish (Scomberoides commersonianus) and Salaya (Sardinella spp) dominated the fish varieties that were dried.  Talang Queenfish fetched the highest price and was the most popular among the buyers.

The low-salt variety of dried fish is increasingly becoming popular among visitors to the island, especially Sri Lankan expatriates who are concerned of the negative health aspects of high level of salt consumption. “The salt content of the fish processed through this method is about 50% lower than those produced under traditional methods, and is better for those with hypertension. We guarantee that the product is free from contamination,” says Mr Ketheeswaran Sugesan, Project Manager.

“Moreover, there is 31% increase in the monthly income of the beneficiaries,” Mr Sugesan explained, as the low-salt variety has become a “niche product prepared hygienically”. “This model has a very high replication capacity,” agreed Mr. Ajith Tennakoon, Director of Sevalanka Foundation, an IUCN member organization in Sri Lanka.


For more information about the MFF project in Delft Island, visit the small grant page, Alternative Livelihood to the Women in Delft Fisher Community    

Women undergoing training in new fish processing method

Women undergoing training in new fish processing method , Delft Island © Sevalanka Foundation, 2015

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