In over 3 decades of fishing both saltwater and freshwater throughout Florida and Caribbean waters, I've felt that I had a fairly good grasp on how the "freshest fish" should taste. While I've been very blessed in travel and fortunate to fish the Pacific as well as the Atlantic Oceans, having fresh sashimi on board chilled minutes after hitting the deck has to be at the top of my highlight reel for freshest fish consumed. Today's top skippers keep certain practices to gain the freshest harvested fish included keeping a steady flow of ice on the catch. Many also go the extra mile to submerge their catch in a salt brine that helps keep the meat in the most desirable manner to harvest.
Well after several months of reading, researching, and connecting with authorities from the Ike Jime Federation, my eyes are opened once again.
In its most primitive form, Ike Jime (活け締め) is a historic Japanese slaughter method that demands the handler to immediately kill a fish using a manual brain spike thrust into the fish’s brain cavity. Because death caused by passive suffocation results in a cascade of negative biochemical, biophysical, and hormonal consequences for a fish, Ike Jime rescues the product quality through a sequence of skilled handling techniques and specialized tools. This is the practice of a considered kill. Similar to a skilled hunter getting a "kill shot" in the vital areas of a buck or wild hog which reduces any suffering the animal may have if hit in a more pain driven area like the leg or ear.
The average angler harvests his catch by simply removing it from water, typically using a gaff and then the fish is left to suffocate to death, while the angler is completely unaware of what it really happening to his prized catch. Fish cannot breathe out of water, so it will eventually die due to oxygen deprivation. However, death caused by passive suffocation stresses a fish. This stress, coupled with inadequate temperature and holding protocols, robs the consumer of the full range of expression for an individual fish. Put simply, stress has a smell, and that smell usually stinks.A responsible kill requires the handler or angler to play a very active role in protecting the final product integrity of the fish that will be harvested for food. At bottom, the fish’s exposure to stress should and can be limited, but the practice of a considered kill continues to develop.
Because “fish” come in a vast array of shapes, sizes, and physiologies, modern fish handling practices incorporate additional steps that serve to optimize the eating quality of a wide variety of fish species. Today, the term “Ike Jime” may also include more advanced handling techniques that go beyond the simple brain spike. Bleeding a fish (i.e., exsanguination), spinal cord destruction (i.e., “shinkei jime”), and cold storage protocols are no longer optional in certain markets. Efforts to differentiate fish according to measurable standards of quality are coming into focus here in the U.S.
The most “premium” seafood experience is unquestionably associated with “sushi.” But sushi, sashimi, or any of their by-products cannot exist without the benefits that Ike Jime brings to the table. Ike Jime ensures that the proprietor of the catch is in absolute control of not only the texture of the fish, but also the visual appearance, the smell, and the flavor of the final product. This level of control is crucial to a unrivaled culinary practice that calls for the utmost from the fish in terms of quality. This level of control also explains why fish subjected to this level of control rule the highest seafood prices on earth.
Consumers of the freshest seafood are more than likely part of the Ike Jime process whether they chose to be included or not. Chances are if they are dining at one of the premier sushi houses in the world, their plate has been blessed by the process of a responsible Ike Jime harvester.
Anglers who consistently practice of Ike Jime prior to harvesting their catch will produce a biochemically superior seafood product - PERIOD.
I'd like you to simply consider the logic behind it for second. It's kinda similar to buying organic and CAGE FREE chickens at your local grocery store or farmers market. Chickens who are happy and die under the control of a stress free environment (cage free) are more likely to taste better than those produced in slaughter houses or screaming chickens filled with stress. The end consumer purchasing the eggs can easily notice that the yolk portion of natural eggs have a deep orange-ish yellow consistency. This comes from a happy and healthy animal with a stress-free habitat.
Veteran anglers who spend time on the water can easily make minimal adjustments like having the proper tools and patience to cultivate the absolute finest & freshest seafood worldwide. It's a practice that needs to spread like wildfire not only amongst seasoned or commercial anglers but also the weekend warrior. Anytime we as hunters & gatherers have the opportunity to educate ourselves to learn techniques which will produce the most delicious & finest version of a meal available, we need to consistently push forward the practice of Ike Jime as a priority when harvesting our seafood.