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A Result of Techniques Employed Aboard Our Vessels
One of the immediate problems we encounter in harvesting fish is bruising. We minimize this by carefully landing each fish in a chilled water-filled tote. We bring the fish down to just above freezing and then the fish are individually stunned and the throat later cut to begin the bleeding process. At no time does the fish come in contact with the boat until it is stunned and bled. The handling is quick and efficient with the fish being kept in low volume totes. The fish in each tote is allowed to bleed a minimum of 15 minutes, but not more than 20 minutes. The fish are then individually loaded onto the heading area. Once a fish is headed by one crew member, another crew proceeds to scrape the fish and place it in a smaller tote. At this point the fish are given a final wash and loaded into a small tote which is then lowered into the freezer hold.
There are two crew men in the -50 degree Celsius freezer that receive the fish and individually place each one onto the plates. Due to the very low temperatures and large freezing systems, the core temperature of the fish is brought down to -40 degree Celsius very quickly. This process begins with the fish breaking the water and ends with them being loaded onto freezer plates within the span of 1 ½ hours.
There are two major factors that contribute to rubbery texture on fish:
1. The first is slow freezing, which generally occurs due to inadequate freezing systems or more often than not, more fish coming onboard than can be handled. The results of this over production are as follows;
- Poor handling due to excess volume onboard
- Improper, or no bleeding
- Overloaded freezer (which in turn slows the freezing process)
- Fish are left on deck for up to 12 hours and sometimes longer before entering the freezer.
- Cell damage can be seen after thawing when the fish lose much of their inherent quality due to excessive liquid loss. (These are the nutrients which will make this product so valuable).
2. The second factor is rigor mortis. This occurs when the fish are left on deck for an extended period of time which results in a condition called gaping. Gaping is a breakdown of the connective tissue in the muscle which occurs when a fish goes into rigor mortis at high temperatures (on deck). As muscles attempt to contract, the skeleton and connective tissue oppose this by creating tension within the muscle. If the connective tissue can withstand this tension, the flesh will not gape. However, if the fish enters into rigor mortis at a high temperature, the connective tissue breaks down and is not able to withstand the pressure. This results in gaping. In cod especially, gaping can occur to such an extent that the meat is essentially useless.