Fishermen's News - The Advocate for the Commercial Fisherman

By Chris Philips
Managing Editor 

Quality is King


Last month brought the 13th annual wild seafood exchange. For those who are unfamiliar with the conference, the wild seafood exchange is an opportunity for the independent commercial fishing community to interact with the customers – restaurants and retailers – and determine how to best provide the fish they need. The annual conference takes place in different ports along the West Coast, with this year’s conference being held in Bellingham, Washington.

The general consensus among the participants continued to be the need to provide a quality harvest that differentiates itself from lesser product.

The one-day conference included networking opportunities and presentations, as well as panels moderated by Pete Granger, a seafood specialist with Washington Sea Grant. The panels included:

Chefs and Retailers Speak

Chef Matthew Clauer, kitchen manager at Old Town Café, in Bellingham.

John Spelz, owner and operator of Wild salmon seafood Market, in Seattle’s Fishermen’s Terminal.

Amber Thunder Eagle, seafood buyer for Haggen Foods.

Successful Direct Marketing Operations

Bill Whitbeck, Seattle area sales manager for Taylor Shellfish Farms.

Amanda Wlaysewski, the owner of Nakeen Homepack, in Bristol Bay, Alaska and The Kvichak Fish Company, in Kalispell, Montana.

Sonia Strobel, co-founder of Skipper Otto’s Community Supported Fishery in Vancouver, BC.

Brandii Holmdahl, Corporate Quality Operations Manager for Icicle Seafoods.

Successful Online Sales

Dan Blick, representing FishLine, a mobile app for fishermen.

Paula Moughton-Weems, with, a seafood marketing resource.

Randy Hartnell, founder of Vital Choice Wild seafood & Organics.

Nurturing Direct Marketing – Communities and Ports

Dan Stahl, Maritime Director of the Port of Bellingham.

Jim Kyle, a retired commercial fisherman and president of the Working Waterfront Coalition of Whatcom County.

Among the interesting and informative panels and presentations on offer during the day was Brandii Holmdahl’s eye-opening presentation on the effect of holding temperature on shelf life.

Ms. Holmdahl explained that research at an Australian research organization (CSIRO) in Hobart, Australia, has led to the development of a simple formula that accurately predicts the growth rate of spoilage bacteria and the deterioration rate of muscle food between the temperatures of -28.4°F and 68°F. The formula also holds true for biochemical changes at temperatures between 32°F and 68°F.

Holmdahl noted that this rule has been applied to a several species of fish, and its practical application to fish spoilage has been validated.

To demonstrate, Ms. Holmdahl produced a chart, showing the effects of spoilage on salmon, with a value of 1 being equal to one day of actual ice time at 32 degrees- in other words, a fish stored at 32 degrees from the time it is caught loses a day of shelf life in 24 hours.

One day at 28.4 degrees, rather than 32, comes out to .64 days of lost shelf time after one day, and at three days on ice, the 28.4-degree fish has lost less than two days of shelf life.

Going the other way, a fish pulled out of the water and left on deck at 59 degrees has lost a day of shelf life in the first 4 hours. That’s a day the fish will never get back, and even if the fisherman then chills the fish to 32 degrees, that 4 hours has cost him in terms of quality.

A sockeye salmon has a shelf life of 12 days, according to Holmdahl. Kept at 50 degrees for the first 4 hours, the fish has a remaining shelf life of just 11 days. At 50 degrees for 8 hours, the remaining life drops to 10.5 days, and so on. If the fish is transferred to a tender that isn’t careful, more loss can be incurred. The difference at the grocer’s case can be as much as three days’ difference of shelf life between two differently-handled fish.

Holmdahl noted that after a few days on ice, both fish will look the same to a buyer, who has no way to tell how the fish was treated in the initial few hours. A buyer has to build that uncertainty into the price he pays for the fish.

But there is hope. Holmdahl says slush, or slurry ice is considered to be the best way to quickly lower the temperature of the fish, and keep it down. Also, she notes, a new device has been developed that can determine the quality of the flesh by simply touching the tester to a fish. Using a handheld device from seafood Analytics, a mild current is transmitted, and the device can read the amount of shelf life left for that particular fish. The data offered by the device includes quality, remaining shelf life, and whether the product was ever frozen.

For fishermen who pride themselves on the quality of their product, it should be comforting to know that technology is advancing to the point where soon a buyer will be able to see for himself the care a harvester has taken to deliver a quality product.

Chris Philips can be reached at: 206-284-8285 or email:


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