Professor Olusegun Akinwumi, an expert in Fish Post-Harvest Technology at Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba Akoko (AAUA), has emphasized the critical need for establishing a dedicated Institute of Fish Processing Technology within the country.
According to him, the primary aim of this institute would be to address the alarming losses faced by fish farmers, caused by the absence of effective and acceptable preservation techniques for their harvests.
In addition, Professor Akinwumi urged both governmental bodies and organizations at various levels to provide interest-free loans to individuals well-versed in fish processing. This incentive would encourage them to embrace and construct integrated fish processing technology (IFPT) structures, ultimately generating more job opportunities and fostering accessible markets for fish farmers.
Prof. Akinwumi made these statements during the delivery of the University’s 20th Inaugural Lecture titled “Fish Post-Harvest Losses: Arresting the Arresters,” which took place on Tuesday, August 22, 2023.
The lecturer, who is also the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), stressed that post-harvest losses, encompassing physical, quality, and economic aspects, result from enzymatic spoilage, oxidation/chemical/non-enzymatic spoilage, microbial infestations, and pest impacts.
According to Professor Akinwumi, achieving sustainable fisheries in Nigeria is marred by a series of obstacles. These include inadequate fishing infrastructure, exorbitant labour costs and inputs, limited access to credit facilities, insufficient skills in fishing gear usage, lax enforcement of fishing laws, over-exploitation of species, encroachment due to urbanization and housing, and the escalating use of agrochemicals, among other issues.
He pointed out that globally, about 600 million livelihoods are dependent on fisheries and aquaculture. Furthermore, Africa employs approximately 12.3 million individuals within these sectors, with 10 million directly engaged in fish production. Additionally, there are around 19.55 million professionals and artisans involved in secondary activities associated with fisheries in Nigeria.
In the revelation of substantial economic data, Professor Akinwumi disclosed that the fisheries sector annually contributes N133.45 billion to the national economy. However, despite this notable contribution, the country still relies on fish imports to fulfil consumer demands.
The Inaugural Lecturer highlighted the limitations of the traditional practice of smoking fish, emphasizing its susceptibility to inevitable spoilage. He provided farmers with essential guidelines to ensure maximum returns on their efforts.
According to him, one important golden rule to forestall fish post-harvest losses is: Do not embark on fish production or fish harvest if you are not sure of the immediate market. Without an available market, you will be forced to sell or preserve/store fish in desperation and frustration. Practice good fish-rearing management, including adequate and quality fish feeding because the health of the fish at the point of harvest is closely related to the rate of its deterioration after harvest.
“Fishers/fish farmers should encourage lower fish catches/landings/ harvest per day because higher landings can cause the overwhelming of the storage and processing facilities which could result in higher fish losses; except there is a ready market to sell.
“As much as possible, the fishers/fish farmers/fish traders should sell live fish and or immediately preserve fish in ice or refrigerate soon after purchase or delivery. Fish preservation should not be an after-thought but a well-planned process because a delay in the proper preservation also decreases the fish post-harvest value.
He further advised, After harvest or delivery, fishers and fish processors/fish traders should direct efforts at removing heat and lowering the surrounding temperatures through the use of ice, cooler boxes and refrigerators for preservation. Fish catches should not be exposed to direct sunlight in order to deny the microbes and pests that cause spoilages in fish the source of energy or food they need to thrive and grow.
Sacrifice / kill the harvested fish by percussive stunning (hitting the fish’s head with a wooden or plastic club) in order to delay rigor mortis. Do not kill fish by hypothermia (killing fish in iced water); it quickens the onset of rigor mortis. Freshly harvested fish should be consumed immediately before the onset of rigor-mortis.
Proceeding further, he offered advice regarding the preservation of smoked fish under a consistent electricity supply. In such cases, he proposed that smoked fish could be either oven-dried or refrigerated. These measures would effectively impede the survival of certain spoilage bacteria. Additionally, he emphasized the importance of using air-tight packaging materials for storing dried fish. However, he underscored the necessity to consume these stored fish within four weeks (one month) to ensure freshness.
The former Dean of Science also cautioned against consuming dried fish stored on open shelves. He pointed out that such fish might contain microbial cells, urging vigilance in this regard. Furthermore, he advocated against the practice of storing dried fish openly, as it could lead to microbial contamination.
In his opening remarks, the Vice Chancellor, Prof. Olugbenga Ige, emphasized that Inaugural Lectures constitute an integral part of university culture. He further affirmed that Adekunle Ajasin University is committed to continually implementing measures that enhance its institutional principles.
He lauded Prof. Akinwumi as an academic luminary, whose wealth of experience spans decades of both classroom and fieldwork, both on a national and international scale.
“With a wealth of administrative experience, Prof. Akinwumi has played a pivotal role in the advancement and development of tertiary education within the state. His diverse roles within the University system have made substantial contributions to its administration and growth,” he said.