Harvest from the Ocean

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About

There are several common ways of harvesting fish from the wild, none of them ideal. In the most controlled and least efficient method, a few fisherman catch a few fish, ice them immediately, and deliver them to shore within hours. This method can produce very fresh and high-quality fish—if they are caught quickly with minimal struggle, expertly killed and cleaned, quickly and thoroughly iced, and promptly delivered to market. But if the fish are exhausted, processing is less than ideal, or cold storage is interrupted, quality will suffer. Far more common are fish caught and processed by the thousands and delivered to port every few days or weeks. Their quality often suffers from physical damage caused by the sheer mass of the catch, delays in processing, and storage in less than ideal conditions. Factory-scale trawlers and longliners also harvest huge numbers of fish, but they do their own processing on board, and often clean, vacuum-pack, and freeze their catch within hours. Such fish can be superior in quality to unfrozen fish caught locally and recently but handled carelessly.