Most Fish We Eat Die in a Surprising Way

They asphyxiate, slowly, and advocates pushing to change that note that the fish will taste better
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted May 3, 2018 11:26 AM CDT
There's a Better, Tastier Way for Fish to Die
Just-caught Mediterranean fish (sea bream) in Sicily, Italy.   (Getty/JannHuizenga)

If you've recently eaten fish, a story at Topic provides what might be a revelation about how that fish almost certainly died: It asphyxiated, slowly. The story, however, is not a plea for people to stop eating fish. Rather, it explains that advocates are pushing to switch to an old-school Japanese method of killing fish called ike jime that has a one-two punch: The method is not only more humane—the fish are killed in a faster, if "gorier," way—but it results in better-tasting fish. That's because a fish allowed to slowly die over several minutes undergoes physical stressors (a surge in lactic acid, for one) that take a toll on taste. As for ike jime, it involves inserting a spike into the fish's brain to bring about quick death—and better quality meat. "Last season, a group of fishers in Washington state tried it out, to rave reviews from local chefs," writes Cat Ferguson.

The story notes that the general principle is well-known and already applied to bluefin tuna as well as other animals, but the logistics of making it a widespread practice in the fishing industry are daunting. One researcher quoted in the story suggests it could raise the price of fish tenfold. But, he adds, "I can envision a future, maybe 10 or 20 years down the track, where wild fish are so rare maybe it will become a premium product, and people will be willing to pay for a fish that's wild and killed humanely." The story focuses on one advocate hoping to make ike jime tools standard fare in tackle boxes and working with the Ike Jime Federation to make the practice more widespread in regard to Atlantic salmon, for starters. Click for the full piece, which delves into the tricky subject of whether fish feel pain in the same way that humans do. (Read more Longform stories.)

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