HE spends more than two weeks at times on inhabited islands, braving cold nights and sharks in the day just to retrieve sea slugs. There are others like him all from Yanuca Village in Cakaudrove. These men leave their families to sail out on punts to the reef. Coming back empty-handed is not an option.
Sea slug is thriving business in Cakaudrove particularly for the villagers of Yanuca and the qoliqoli provides good income for these men and their families, as villager Pelasio Rainibogi explains. Every morning at sunrise Pelasio is already up eager as always to fill his sack with sea slugs for the market. A process that takes weeks to do equipped with only a piece of metal to break through the coral reef and retrieve the slugs.
It's a job he's been committed to for some years now and probably will be for life. "I can spend about two to three weeks out on uninhabited islands and come back to the village after I collect the sea slugs from the reef.
"The business has been good as I get very good money from the sale of sea slugs and I have no problems with the market," Pelasio said.
"The qoliqoli is our main source of income and that has been my form of employment ever since I left school." The Fiji Times earlier reported that Yanuca villagers earn up to $15,000 to $18,000 fortnightly.
When collecting sea slugs, Pelasio has to search for it in the reef and in shallow waters.
"It depends what kind of sea slugs I want for the market. The job is not difficult in finding sea slugs but it may involve risks of having sharks around the area.
"But I have always prayed and asked God for guidance to protect me when I am out there doing my jobs," Pelasio said.
Although plans for other career paths were in mind during his school days, the sweet rewards of collecting and selling sea slugs pulled him back to the village.
Those sweet rewards have been mainly the high income earned by his dad and uncles - a fact he observed while growing up.
"When I was a kid I used to see the men in the village go to Taveuni and do big shopping and it was the money from the sea slugs they collected.
"So after seeing that, I got attracted to it and stated helping my dad collect sea slugs. My dad started paying me too and the money was so good so I have remained in the business," Pelasio said.
Still a young single man and a headman of his village, Pelasio has always encouraged youths to work hard and earn a good living. "Our qoliqoli has provided us with good income and it has helped our parents financially in putting us through school and paying other bills.
"My job as a village headman and as a fisherman is to always talk to our youths and tell them not to be lazy but work hard.
"If we work hard, we earn good money and can afford a good living but if we are lazy, then it won't help at all," Pelasio said.
He believes that youths should start helping themselves by making use of the resources around their villages.
"They can make furniture from their forests and sell it or beautify their natural surrounding and turn it into a tourism site.
"It's all about creating the opportunity from the resources around us and market it to bring money back into our community," Pelasio said.