One of the most important aspects of marketing your fish directly is delivering a premium quality product. There are many attributes of seafood that constitute quality, namely:
- intrinsic or inherent seafood attributes (such as quality of water, sustainability, etc.)
This is probably where fishermen have the biggest impact on the overall quality of their catch. Simple practices, such as grabbing the fish by the head or under the gill rakers, instead of grabbing a fish by its tail, will have ramifications not only in the short-term, but will also affect the product quality in its packaged form. Grabbing a fish and handling it by its tail causes the backbone to break, and will result in blood releasing from the spine into the flesh of the fish. Blood and slime are generally where fish get their “fishy” flavor from.
Additionally, handling a fish while in rigor mortis will cause gaping of the flesh. Although this may not necessarily affect the taste of the fish, it will affect its appearance, and is generally a sign of poor quality. Instead of trying to straighten a fish that is bent and in rigor, it is best to let it relax and come out of rigor before attempting to process it. As long the as fish is chilled or in slush ice, it shouldn’t take more than 8 hours for the fish to come out of rigor enough to process it without damage.
This video, produced by the Alaska Sea Grant Marine Advisory Program, details how setnet salmon fishermen can improve their product quality with simple handling guidelines, and a commitment to icing their catch.