Andrew Tsui is the founder of the Ike Jime Federation, and… he’s on a mission. He aims to change the way we, as commercial and recreational anglers, handle the fish we harvest. We’ll set euphemisms aside for a moment and say it clearly, Andrew wants to change the way we kill fish. In fact, he believes in what he calls A Considered Kill.
First, we should say, Ike Jime is a traditional Japanese technique for killing fish. As an island nation, Japan has always relied heavily on ocean fish for its dietary needs, and few places in the world can boast as sophisticated a seafood culinary tradition. And like so many things Japanese, the techniques for dispatching fish reached a level of near-perfection there, not just eliminating as much suffering and stress as possible, but also producing the highest quality finished food product possible.
The method, while requiring some skill, is fairly simple. Once fish are brought onto the boat or onshore, they’re quickly killed with an ice-pick-like spike inserted into their brain. Then, their gills are cut, to induce exsanguination — which simply means they are bled out — and finally a long, flexible wire — known as a Shinke Jime wire — is run through the spinal canal, destroying their spinal cord and eliminating any residual nerve impulses that would keep muscles contracting spasmodically, resulting in tissue damage, metabolic waste products, and chemical stresses that would ultimately reduce the quality of the final food product.
Lastly, the fish is rapidly cooled, not just placed on ice, but in an ice slurry that completely surrounds the fish, ensuring quick and uniform cooling.
For those of us who fish, this may sound like a lot of extra logistical steps — especially when we’re used to pulling a fish over the gunwales and tossing them into the icebox — but it’s important to note that similar steps are taken for the USDA-certified domesticated meats we purchase in the supermarket. While fish, somehow, are still killed with unregulated and antiquated methods that produce inferior finished food products.
This, in turn, reduces the value of the fish we buy and eat, meaning that commercial fishermen must harvest larger numbers of fish to be profitable. It's a quantity over quality paradigm.
That’s where Andrew Tsui comes in. He’s working hard to make Ike Jime a part of our commercial fishing fleet's tool kit. Providing both equipment and education, and working on policy as well.
It’s a lot more work, it adds complexity, and a need for anatomical knowledge and keenly honed fine motor skills. It requires patience and consistency. But let’s face it, we would never treat mammals the way we treat fish. Can you imagine just leaving cows piled on top of each other in the sun to die, convulsing? It’s unthinkable. But that’s what we’ve been doing with fish. Then we wonder why they last just a few days before spoiling.
Chefs like Josh Niland, who we’ve had on the show before, are showing us that our fish culinary tradition is still in its infancy. Andrew Tsui is showing us that it’s not just how we cook fish, but how we dispatch them as well.
So, we’ll be heading out on the water this year armed with the tools of the Ike Jime Federation. Brain spikes, Shinke Jime wires, and, of course, the knowledge of how to implement these practices, all of which can be found on IkeJimeFederation.com.
With all the time and effort we put into feeding ourselves and our families with wild foods, why would we skip these steps that can reduce stress and suffering, increase the shelf life and quality of the meat we harvest, and culminate in an eating experience that surpasses anything we could get with conventional methods.
So, have a listen, and consider becoming a forward-thinking angler. Learning to humanely dispatch fish for their own sake and for a better final food product too. Like Andrew says… these are tools for the considered kill.
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