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I am a commercial salmon fisher and have been fishing for the last thirty eight years. When talking to the public, or even to chefs, I am surprised by the misconceptions that abound about frozen at sea (FAS) salmon as compared to "fresh" salmon.

With modern technology and careful attention to proper handling procedures, a frozen at sea salmon is the highest quality salmon available to B.C. chefs and consumers.

There is no legal definition of "fresh" that allows the consumer to know when the fish gasped it last gasp. The only definition of "fresh" that applies to fish is the following: the fish has not been previously frozen. There is no requirement to state when the fish was actually caught.

A properly handled frozen at sea salmon is bled and cleaned right after it is caught. Within two hours (before rigor mortis sets in) the fish is flash frozen at minus 40 degrees Celsius. After being frozen, which can take up to four hours depending on size and species, the fish is dipped into chilled sea water to glaze it. This glazing preserves freshness and prevents dehydration.

A good case for frozen at sea salmon can be made with Pink salmon, the most underrated and undervalued salmon we have in B.C. Because of it's soft texture and delicate flavour, the quality of a pink begins to deteriorate shortly after it is caught. Very few people can experience what wonderful salmon these are. Yet, a frozen at sea pink salmon can be served up to a year after being caught and will look and taste as if it just came out of the sea.

Comments?

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How are we to know if our salmon is actually FAS? I have to admit that despite hearing positive comments about FAS fish that I still buy "fresh" if there is an option.

Is there an actual retail standard to prove this quality of product is actually what it says it is?

Who retails FAS salmon in Vancouver?

Thanks

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Good points Eatrustic. There is no regulation that requires a salmon to be labelled as to how it was caught (whether by trolling, gillnetting or by seining), how it was processed, or where it was caught.

I am a strong advocate of introducing the idea of traceability into our fishing industry. At the time of capture, each fish could be tagged with a barcode label that would state how, when, where and who caught the fish. That label could be computer scanned at each stage of its journey from my hand to your mouth. The producer would become more accountable for his or her product and the consumer would have the ability to trace the origin of their food. With computer technology this idea is certainly possible. A demanding public would certainly speed up the process of instituting this concept.

For the last 15 years I have been marketing my own fish. Every executive chef who buys my salmon receives a detailed history of when, where, and how the fish were harvested. I encourage them to make their servers aware of this information so that it can be passed on to their customers. FAS salmon are usually more expensive so if the restaurant or fish store cannot answer you whether their fish is FAS or not, it is probably not.

At present, there is no retail standard that I am aware of that requires a fish that is labelled as frozen at sea (FAS) to meet certain criteria. FAS is supposed to mean the fish was frozen on the boat that caught it within a few hours of the fish being landed. Anyone who buys a fish labelled as FAS should expect a very high quality product. When thawed out it should look as if it were just caught. The true test for any fish is to eat it raw as in sashimi. If it does not impress you, complain.

Acronyms can be a very effective marketing tool. I have noticed some fish stores selling frozen fish with the acronym IQF displayed on the product. IQF means Individually Quick Frozen. It is a marketing technique which only means that the fish were frozen individually in a processing plant (often many days after the fish were caught) - exactly the opposite of FAS.

Kosta Zogaris (The Salmon Shop on Lonsdale Quay, North Vancouver) retails FAS salmon. Check it out, talk to him, and see what I'm talking about. He has fish to fry for.

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Chris,

Finest At Sea (FAS) on Granville Island (& at 33rd and Arbutus) also sells FAS and fresh salmon. They employ their own boats, so they know exactly where the fish is from and when the fish are caught.

They have excellent product.

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Where can you even buy fresh wild salmon in BC? There is no day fishery.

My brother worked on a seiner when he was younger and I have been the luck beneficiary of a lot of beautiful fish. I am a big believer in FAS.

Does Kostas not own the Salmon Shop on GI as well? He used to.

The sea was angry that day my friends... like an old man trying to send back soup in a deli.

George Costanza

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"Fresh" salmon is available almost every month of the year in B.C. Spring salmon or Chinook is caught year round while the other species (sockeye, coho, pink and chum) are available from June through October, normally.

On January 6, 2009, spring fishing opens on the West Coast of Vancouver Island. The boats have a quota of 2,500 fish to catch for the month. They will have a different quota for February. Depending on weather and the catch rate, fish can trickle in for all of January or sometimes it is all caught in one fell swoop, then no more fresh fish will be available until the next month. It always amazes me for how long "fresh" fish is available long after the fishing has closed.

Companies who buy the fresh fish now require the boats to offload within four days of the first fish being caught. Ten to fifteen years ago boats kept the fish on ice for up to 12 days. Allow two days for the fish to arrive in Vanouver and another day to reach the retailer and your "fresh" fish is now a minimum of four to seven days old.

As far as I know Kosta Zogaris has only been on Lonsdale Quay and not on Granville Island. Longliner Seafoods on Granville Island at one time opened a store on Lonsdale Quay but there wasn't enough business to support two fish shops so they closed their North Vancouver store.

The Salmon Shop on Lonsdale Quay or Longliner Seafoods on Granville Island may carry the fish or they should be able to point you in the right direction to source out the product.

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Whilst holidaying in Tofino this summer, my next door neighbour gave me some fresh (and never been frozen) Chinook he had caught that morning. To say it was the best salmon I have ever had would be an understatement.

For me, the freezing process has an impact on taste. But I agree that FAS salmon is still a very good food item. And wild salmon in BC is the same price as farmed Atlantic salmon, which begs the question why on earth does farmed salmon have any market share.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Interesting thread ... good info, thank you.

"FAS" makes sense ... unfortunately, to me and in my line of work, FAS stands for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

I somewhat doubt (probably, maybe) that this shared acronym will affect the deployment of "Frozen at Sea" on it's own food marketing merits ... however, it's something to think about as FAS in the medical sense is quite broadly recognized.

Have you thought about alternative acronyms or expressions that allude to the educational aims of wild salmon consumption/availability?

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