Humane Killing: Kill Better & Eat Better
Originated in Japan, Ikejime or Ikijime is a humane method of killing fish to maintain the quality of its meat. This technique is now in widespread use in commercial and recreational fishing as well as spearfishing.
In the past decades, it has been argued that fish can not feel pain because they do not have a sufficient density of appropriate nerve fibers. However, a study carried out at Liverpool University in 2019 has confirmed that fish do experience pain, although whether they experience it in the same way as mammals is less clear.
According to Essere Animali, which is recognized as one of the most effective organizations in the world by Animal Charity Evaluators, hundreds of millions of fish are being left to slowly and painfully die of asphyxiation every year after being caught up. Some of the fish even endure a suffocation that can apparently last up to an hour on slabs or containers filled with slush and ice. It is believed that this would be stressful for the animals, and maybe more importantly to most people, researchers have also shown that meat from stressfully slaughtered fish may have a shorter shelf life and a worse taste.
To reduce the pain in fish and to acquire better-tasting and longer-lasting meat, applying a humane killing method is an ideal solution. Several methods have been developed including percussive stunning, electrical stunning, and ikejime, etc. Here, we focus on ikejime as the main approach for spearos to practice.
How to perform Ikejime?
In ikejime, time is essential and it is unacceptable to let a fish to thrash around and die slowly in air or a bucket of water. When fish convulse, it tears their own muscles apart; they flood with lactic acid and burn up their cellular fuel reserves, triggering a series of chemical reactions that speed the degradation of fat and muscle. Therefore, it is expected to be done quickly and preferably within a minute of a fish being caught.
The procedure can be done using either a sharp knife, a sharpened screwdriver, or by using specially designed ikejime tools. The technique involves the insertion of a spike quickly and directly into the hindbrain, usually located slightly behind and above the eye, thereby causing immediate unconsciousness. When spiked correctly, the fish fins flare and the fish relaxes, immediately ceasing all motion.
The spike should then be moved from side to side to destroy the brain. After spiking, the fish should be bled out by cutting the gill rakers as it will improve flesh quality and storage life.