Buying, Cooking, & Eating Fresh Fish Safely

To ensure that the fish you buy and eat is as safe as possible, follow these recommended guidelines:

Controlling bacteria improves fish safety and taste

If you are fishing for either sport, subsistence, or commercial purposes, it is important to understand that bacteria impacts the quality and safety of fish. Fortunately, steps can be taken to control the growth of bacteria. Bacteria is naturally found in the slime, digestive tracts, gills, and exposed blood. It grows quickly, multiplying exponentially, after the fish is removed from the water. Bacterial growth is further increased if coolers, fish boxes, or other storage items are not properly cleaned. Once established, bacteria soon changes the texture, color, odor, and, most importantly, flavor of fish.

Don't bruise your fish

Few people realize that fish flesh is easily damaged. If fish are bruised, enzymes are released. These enzymes soften the flesh and make nutrients available to bacteria. Food scientists have found that flesh taken from bruised fish contain 10 times more bacteria than flesh from unbruised fish. By separating fish bruised in nets, fishermen can avoid having a few highly contaminated fish, accelerating spoilage of those fish that have not been bruised.

Properly ice your fish as soon as possible

It is important to properly ice fish. This is done by making a 1 to 2 inch bed of crushed ice, layering ice with fish, and topping the fish box or cooler off with 2 to 3 inches of additional ice. Icing fish provides the benefits of:

Food scientists have conducted studies on bacterial growth that support there commendation that fish be iced regardless of weather conditions. Their studies have also determined that the flushing action of melting ice extended the shelf life of fish in coolers by controlling bacterial growth.