Post-harvest handling and microbial quality of fish along the value chain in Lake Hawassa
The objective of the current study was to investigate post-harvest handling and microbial quality of raw fish meat along fish value chain actors. A survey was conducted on 45 fishermen, 45 fish retailers and 45 fish consumers. Apart from observation, raw fish meat samples were collected from the actors that participated during the survey. About 30 samples were collected from fish actors (10 samples from each actor). The results showed that out of the total responses by the fishermen, about 56% have only gillnet while 31% have owned both gillnet and boat. Only 44% of interviewed fishermen had full gutting equipment. On retailers’ side, about 82% of them sell fish directly to consumers in the surrounding of the lake and through door to door service. Plastic containers (58%) and “plastic bag” (26%) were also reported as storage materials. The top two ranked problems mentioned by the fishermen are entry of unlicensed fishermen to the lake (1st) and gillnet stealing (2nd) whereas low supply of fish (1st) mainly by retailors side. The fish consumers buy fish from the lakeside (96%), hotel and restaurant (36%) and door to door sellers (24%). There was non-significant difference (p>0.05) in the total count of coli-form and E. coli in raw fish samples between fishermen, fish retailers and fish consumers. Total bacterial count of raw fish meat sampled from fishermen, fish retailers and fish consumers was 2.55 cfu/ml, 2.34 cfu/ml and 1.88 cfu/ml, respectively. So, the result indicated that there was no significant difference between fisherman and fish retailers but both have shown statistically significant difference with the fish consumers. Similarly, significance difference was observed for salmonella count between fishermen (1.97 cfu/ml) and fish consumers (1.27 cfu/ml). The count of salmonella along all actors are below the recommended standard (per 25 ml dilution) though higher count was found in samples collected from consumers than fishermen. Generally, the fishermen and fish retailers used inappropriate fishing, processing and storage materials that have contributed to the increased bacterial load and resulted in deterioration of the quality of fish. Thus awareness creation on hygienic handling of fish, introduction of improved handling and processing equipment are required.