For so long, Samoans have not realised the full economic value of trochus shells, a gastropod species, other than extracting the meat for consumption or bottling for export.
This is soon to change with the Fisheries Division (Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries) and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (A.C.I.A.R.) conducting a series of workshops on Upolu and Savaii to educate the public on the commercial benefits of trochus shells by transforming them into a handicraft masterpiece.
Senior Fisheries Officer, Justin Aiafi said the workshop involves shell polishing and jewellery making demonstrations for participants from communities under the community based programme and also representatives from fishers fishing for trochus and handicraft makers.
The workshop follows a successful completion of an underwater survey conducted by the Fisheries Division in the first quarter of this year to identify areas that had a sustainable and well established population of trochus.
Mr. Aiafi told the Samoa Observer that data collected from the surveys carried out on 28 reef sites on Upolu and Savaii highlighted that the translocations of trochus from Vanuatu to Samoa 15 years ago resulted in abundant populations being established at multiple sites in Upolu and Savaii.
He said trochus were found at all, but one of the 14 field sites around Upolu, and at more than half of the 14 field sites around Savai’i. Mr. Aiafi added trochus populations are superabundant - more than 1000 per hectare in Satua and Salelologa.
Joining the workshop are Australian handicraft specialist De’arne Kershler and Southern Cross University Biologist, Steven Purcell who is facilitating the workshop.
Mr. Aiafi said under their market survey, which they conduct every week to estimate the volume and value of fisheries resources sold on the roadside across the island, they identified that a lot of vendors on the north western and northern parts of Upolu sell trochus.
“This workshop targets fishers, especially women and people who have the knowledge to make and create handicrafts. So the purpose of the workshop is to utilise the trochus shell.
“Trochus is a gastropod and it was introduced into Samoa many years ago, so the target of the workshop is to make sure that we don’t discard the shell because usually a lot of people they just extract the meat from the shell and they throw away the shell,” he said.
Trochus is not a native species in Samoa and was first introduced in 1990 from Fiji, then from Vanuatu in 2003 through financial assistance from A.C.I.A.R. Partnering with the Fisheries Division, the aim of the project was for the animals to naturally reproduce and colonise reefs in Samoa to allow a new fishery resource for village fishers.
The workshop in Upolu continues until August 10 and Savaii runs from August 27 – September 7, to be conducted in Asau and Salelologa.