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FISHERIES and MARINE RESOURCES
Papers presented at Symposium 8, Vilith Pacific Science Inter-Congress The University of the South Pacific Fiji '
13 - 19 July, 1997
" ISSN 1018--2896)
An Urban Women's Subsistence Fishery Off Suva Peninsula, Fiji:
Potential Threats and Public Health Considerations
Davis, M. T. ', Newell, P.F2, and Quinn, N.i
I PO Box 1351, Ellensburg, WA 98926 U.S.A.
2 Biology Department, SPAS, P.O. Box 1168, USP, Suva, Fiji. 3p.O. Box 305874, S1. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands 00803 l!.S.A.
Key Words: Artisanal fishery, Anadara antiquata, Modiolus agripetus, TBT,organotins, pollution
The intertidal zone around Suva Peninsula, Fiji supports separate finfish and invertebrate subsistence fisheries. This important source of fresh marine food for many low income families around metropolitan Suva may be threatened through foreshore reclamation projects and by anthropogenic biochemical pollution. Damage 'to or loss of this invertebrate intertidal fishery would remove a significant area where urban dwellers can pursue this traditional (non-cash) means of seafood acquisition.
This fishery is under threat from several sources. In 1996, Suva Peninsula was considered for the development of a marina, hotel, aquarium, roads, walls, and other structures. There is also increasing evidence of a serious anthropogenic TBT (tributyltin) pollution threat to the Suva Peninsula invertebrate fishery. Although this substance is well known to have ecologically deleterious effects, its use is unregulated in Fiji. Samples of Anadara antiquata and Gafarium tumidum contained levels of TBT ranging from <50 ng TBT gm" to 240 ng TBT gm' and is considered to be very high. Samples of the edible bivalve Gafarium tumidum taken from the Lami Dump intertidal had accumulated 10,500 ng TBT gm'. The values of TBT in Suva Harbour and Laucala Bay sediments have reached unprecedented levels and are functioning as geochemical sinks for this toxic organotin substance.
Recreational fishing and invertebrate collecting are common activities around the apex of the Suva Peninsula, Fiji (Fig. l ). Methodical surveys of women invertebrate fishers, working during daylight hours, within the Suva Peninsula intertidal areas were conducted in July 1996 and repeated in December of 1996 (Quinn & Davis, 1997). This study of a traditional women's fishery included specific catch statistics or discussed seasonal variation in catches. Field observations, taken in different seasons, showed that kaikoso, [Anadara antiquata (L., 1758)]
/ G. Turnidurn (a) 10,500 ng TBT/mg
A. antiquate (a) 70 ng TBT/mg (b) 90 ng TBT/mg
Sediment <10 ng TBT/mg
Study site I
A. antiquata (a) 240 ng TBT/mg (b) 80 ng TBT/mg (c) 110ngTBT/mg (d) 90 ng TBT/mg
Sediment <10 ng TBT/mg
A. antiquata (a) 110 ng TBT.mg (b) <50 ng TBT/mg G. tumidum (a) <50 ng TBT/mg Sediment <10 ng TBT/mg
o 500 1000 1 500 2000 2500
Study site II
site III A. antiquata (a) 170 ng TBT/mg (b) 60 ng TBT/mg
Sediment <10 ng TBT/mg
A. antiquata (a) 200 ng TBT/mg (b) 120 ng TBT/mg
Sediment <10 nq TBT/mq
Ucunivanua Village Intertidal A. antiquata (a) <50 ng TBT/mg (b) <50 ng TBT/l11g
Sediment "" 1ll nq TBT/mg
and "kuku" [Modiolus agripetus Iredale 1939] were the dominant and subdominant shellfish catch. "kabatia" [Lethrinus harak (Forsskal, 1775)] was the most common finfish caught by hand line followed by "matu" [Gerres oyena (Forsskal, 1775)] and "qitawa" [Terapon jarbua (Forsskal, 1775)]. "nuqa" [Siganus vermiculatus (Valenciennes, 1835)] was shown to be the most common caught finfish using hand net or by hand.
The intertidal area around the apex of the Suva Peninsula consists primarily of soft sediment mudflats. These flats in turn support a daytime women's invertebrate fishery with an economical value that is significant to an estimated 300-500 people each week with approximately 70 different women fishing (Quinn & Davis, 1997). At a market value of F$2.5 kg" for A. antiquata the CPUE is estimated to be about F$;2.68 hr-l. This is higher than the usual unskilled labor hourly wage in Suva. The loss of this fishery would remove a significant area where low income urban dwellers can pursue a traditional (non-cash) means of seafood acquisition.
Suva Peninsula is located between Suva Harbour and with the adjacent Lami Dump intertidal on the west side and the Laucala Bay on the east. Suva Harbour has semi-diurnal tides with a range of 0.9 m at neap tides and.LB m at spring tides. Typically the Suva Peninsula flats are exposed during daylight for three to five hours. The mangrove communities that once lined much of the shore have been reduced (Naidu et al., 1991). A channel separates the sand flat from an intertidal coral reef community and the open sea. A boat is required to transverse the channel, and consequently gleaners use the reef less frequently. The reef flat has been documented as sustaining an important sea urchin (Tripneustes gratilla, Linnaeus, 1758) (Gounder, 1995) and sea cucumber fishery. Anecdotal evidence indicates that the sea cucumber fishery is seriously overexploited. The width of the sand flat ranges from 100 to 350 m for a distance of approximately 4.5 km from Suva City around the tip of the peninsula to Laucala Bay. The coastal biota of the Suva Peninsula intertidal area is known to be rich and diverse (Morton, 1990; Zann, 1994).
This paper advocates that the invertebrate women's fishery is a distinct fishery and not, as some previous literature alludes to, an "ad hoc" activity that is done on the way to subtidal areas for line fishing (Beeching, 1993). The sand flats of this region support a subsistence invertebrate fishery that is an important source of fresh marine food for many low income families around metropolitan Suva. Previous work on women's subsistence fisheries, though without a doubt providing a valuable contribution, were as yet descriptive and focused on the use of in home interviews (Tiraa-Passfield, 1995). Quinn & Davis (1997) consider this invertebrate fishery to be distinct from fin fishing activities and devised a methodology that provided appropriate data to calculate the CPUE for the primary catch invertebrate species, as well as calculating a monetary value for the time invested in procuring that catch.
This fishery, now documented as distinct and of economic value is considered to be under threat. As recently as 1996 Suva Peninsula was selected as the location of another Suva
nearshore development scheme. This last proposition involved the building of a marina, lagoon, hotel, aquarium, roads, walls, and other structures. Such a nearshore development project would destroy major parts of the intertidal fishery as much of it would be at the point of land reclamation but also increased sedimentation would physically disrupt other intertidal areas killing off whole invertebrate communities. Historically, Environmental Impact Statements of Suva Peninsula nearshore development schemes place little value on the intertidal fishery because, on a national scale, of the low economic value. One can understand that the protection of a subsistence fishery would not be considered a vital section to an environmental impact statement. Balanced against the stakes involved with such plans as 5- star hotels, marinas, and/or casinos the availability of a no-cash-cost natural fishery, for a population of low income urban dwellers, is considered insignificant.
Tributyltin (TBT) is a highly efficient biocide that is greatly favoured as an active anti-fouling substance in marine paints. Although this substance has long since been found to have serious environmental deleterious effects it is unregulated in Fiji and therefore local marine paint production and utilisation involves the use of this active ingredient. The levels of tributyltin in Suva Harbour in 1991 had reached globally preeminent levels Stewart and de Mora (1992). There is also increasing evidence of a serious anthropogenic TBT (tributyltin) pollution threat to the Suva Peninsula invertebrate fishery
To determine whether TBT had encroached into the invertebrate fishery samples of the primary catch species Anadara antiquata were chosen as the subject of an exploratory set of samples for TBT analysis in shellfish tissue. Five study sites around the Suva Peninsula were delineated. Four of the sites were the same as Quinn & Davis (1997) and the fifth was added at the area known as Muanivatu. This area was the subject of a study of A. antiquata by Maybin (1989). As a control site two composite samples of A. antiquata were collected from the intertidal of the Ucunivanua village (Tikina Verata) and were assayed. Ucunivanua was selected because of its seclusion and lack of industry and the intertidal mudflat was believed to be free of sources of biochemical pollution, and organotins, in particular.
At each site a random spot was chosen, a GPS reading taken at that spot, and a collection of A. antiquata gathered from a loosely estimated 100 m radius circle around the GPS reading. Samples were frozen immediately after collection. All of the A. antiquata specimens were collected on the same day. Processing procedures included thawing, carefully dissecting out the digestive tract, and then finely mincing the animal. All glassware and instruments involved in sample processing were either sterile or acid washed and first rinsed with distilled, and then deionised water.
As it was decided that a sample from a thoroughly polluted area would make an interesting contrast, the Lami Dump intertidal was searched for live A. antiquata. No live Anadara, nor
any evidence of any recently alive Anadara, was found. This intertidal was notably void of much of the expected intertidal flora and fauna. The only living bivalve species found in the Lami Dump intertidal was that of Gafarium tumidum Roding, 1798 (Venus shell), a small bivalve that is collected and eaten within Fiji. A forty-five minute search by two people covering a roughly 350 m2 area of intertidal revealed thirteen small living G. tumidum . These bivalves were frozen for storage, the digestive tracts of Gafarium species were not removed because of the small size of the animal and its digestive tract.
Samples from Study Site I included two large individuals that were considered large enough (60.2mm, 63.5mm) to provide sufficient tissue to be processed as single samples. One individual was male with a large quantity of sperm and the other individual was female with eggs. The other two samples for Study Site I were composite samples of five small A. antiquata individuals minced together as one sample. Samples from every other site included composite samples exclusively.
After the bivalve tissue samples were minced with sterile instruments they were placed into acid washed, pre-weighed beakers. A second weight reading was taken for per cent moisture calculations. The tissue samples were then freeze-dried at the USP Institute of Applied Sciences and the resulting dry samples were weighed and placed into acid washed vials and
shipped to R. J. Hill Labs in Hamilton New Zealand for butyltin analysis. The technique used
involved gas chromatography and is described by Szpunar et.al, (1996). It is lamentable that there is no certified shellfish standard for this type of analytical work. Confirmation of results was done by performing spike recoveries on actual samples. Extraction efficiency for each sample was monitored through the use of a surrogate compound (triphenyltin). All quality assurance/quality control procedures resulted in recovery rates within acceptable limits (75- 120%).
The samples of A. antiquata analysed for TBT content clearly indicate bioaccumulation ofTBT in the shellfish tissue. Levels ranged from a low of <50 ng TBT gm -1 to a high of 240 ng TBT gm' around Suva Peninsula (see Map). Some researchers would consider these levels to be "very high" (Short & Thrower, 1986). Both of the control samples (Ucunivanua village) returned values of <50 ng TBT gm". This value represents the lower end of instrument sensitivity.
The bivalve tissue taken from the Lami Dump intertidal zone had bioaccumulated TBT to a level of 10,500 ng TBT gm". We have not been able to find any similar value of TBT in mollusc tissue in the literature.
The Anadara antiquata fishery appears to be sustainable, with is a subtidal community of A. antiquata which consists of individuals larger than any collected in the intertidal region. It was not uncommon to find a subtidal individual in the 7-8 cm. length range, whereas the A. antiquata found in the intertidal only occasionally reached over 5 em. in length. Because the women collecting Anadara restrict their activity to that of the intertidal this population of subtidal, unexploited A. antiquata probably acts as breeding stock, and thus helping to maintain the intertidal fishery community.
Matakite Maata (pers. comm. 1997) has shown that Laucala Bay, previously believed to be unpolluted, has sediments heavily laden with TBT and that Suva Harbour sediments are now showing TBT contamination an order of magnitude higher than anything published. The source of TBT into Laucala Bay is not intuitive as the current flow is out of the bay and into the harbour and not the reverse. TBT pollution is historically found in the vicinities of input sources such as marinas, merchant ports, heavy maritime traffic areas, and TBT-treated breeding cages. Laucala Bay does not fit into any of these categories and therefore the sediment, and tissue levels of TBT, would be expected to be at undetectable levels (Alzieu, 1996).
Clearly the water column regularly covering the Suva Peninsula intertidal must be suspect as a source of TBT to filter-feeding organisms. The production of marine antifouling paint within the drainage basin of the Lami River is the number one suspect of the enormous pollution level of these Lami Dump intertidal bivalves. A more thorough assessment of this intertidal community and water and sediment TBT levels up the Lami River would be an interesting continuation of this initial work. Further research into the bioaccumulation of area phytoplankton / zooplankton might provide some substance to the query as to whether the TBT from the Lami Dump / Suva Harbour waters are being cycled into other areas via planktonic communities.
Considering that the Laucala Bay sediments are laden with TBT any near shore development plans involving Laucala Bay sediment dredging must be carefully considered and thoroughly discussed in any relevant Environmental Impact Statement. Research has shown that these sediments are now acting as geochemical sinks for the toxic organotin substance - tributyltin (TBT). Dredging can resuspend TBT material and increase its availability to bioaccumulating orgamsms.
Epidemiological studies of the population which most frequently consumes Suva Peninsula shellfish would be valuable. Based upon 1988 ADI (Acceptable Daily Intake) values for public consumption of TBT the contamination levels in the shellfish taken from the Suva Peninsula would appear to pose no immediate health risk. However, the effects of long term consumption ofTBT on humans has not been well documented (de Mora, 1996). Since that 1988 ADI level
was established additional information about the effect of TBT on animal physiology has been published. Should one assume that this ADI value takes into account all possible risks to humans from the bioaccumulation of TBT in foodstuffs? Cooking is known to be ineffective in eliminating butyl tins in fish flesh (Short & Thrower, 1986).
Research on aquatic vertebrates looking at the effect of TBT on hepatic enzyme pathways has shown that TBT inhibits the ability to metabolise pollutants such as PCB's, P AH' s, as well as rBT itself (Alzieu, 1996). Studies using rats and mice illustrate immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity, teratogenicity and cutaneous toxicity of organotins (WHO, 1990). More mammalian studies have been called for by the World Health Organisation. The lipophilic nature of TBT and its discovery in the blubber of marine mammals such as dolphins and whales (Iwata, et al., 1994) suggests that organotins biomagnifiy through the aquatic food web. This may have ramifications for other marine seafoods consumed by Fiji's local population.
Because of known environmental damage and injury to shell-fisheries the use ofTBT on boats of less than 25 m length has been banned throughout North America, Australia, New Zealand, and much of Europe. Clearly there is a TBT pollution crisis developing in Fiji as the use of rBT continues without regulation, The continued industrial and marine use of TBT contributes to Suva Harbour and Laucala Bay sediments acting as geochemical sinks for TBT. Any sediment dredging projects could resuspend significant quantities of TBT into vulnerable communities. Disposal of these harbour dredgings must also be carefully considered, and disposal on land, without the adequate containment of the rapidly released adsorbed heavy metals and TBT load, is not a realistic option.
A clearer picture of the situation needs to be developed. What is the route by which TBT enters into the Lacuala Bay fisheries and sediments and how many species of seafood are bioaccumulating this toxic organotin? Do the values of TBT accumulated in Suva Peninsula shellfish represent an early snapshot in a long term bioaccumulation event? What is the TBT value in the subtidal Anadara population? What is the value of TBT within the water column? Is TBT being transported via estuarine bacteria and phytoplankton (both well known bioaccumulators of organotins)? How is it affecting the structure of the intertidal community? Sewage sludge from treatment plant effluent's have been found to contain butyltins (de Mora, 1996) and if so, is the nearby Kinoya sewage treatment works outflow a TBT point pollution source?
We are grateful to M. Maata for many helpful discussions. We also thank the staff at the University of the South Pacific Institute of Applied Science for their time and use of analytical facilities. This study was made possible through the support of the University of the South Pacific Research Committee and the School of Pure and Applied Sciences Research Committee for supporting this work with Research grant #6288-1311-70766-15.
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