Harvesting techniques vary depending on the type of culture system involved. Seines are often used to capture fish from ponds, or the majority of the animals can be collected by draining the pond through netting. Fish pumps are available that can physically remove aquatic animals directly onto hauling trucks from ponds, raceways, cages, and net-pens without causing damage to the animals.
Aquaculturists may harvest and even process their own crops, although custom harvesting and hauling companies are often available in areas where the aquaculture industry is sufficiently developed to support them. Some processing plants also provide harvesting and live-hauling services.
Some species, with channel catfish being a good example, can develop off-flavors. A characteristic off-flavor in catfish is often described as an earthy-musty, or muddy, flavor. The problem is associated with the chemical geos-min and related compounds that are produced by certain types of algae (2). Processors often require that a sample fish from each pond scheduled for harvest be brought to the plant about two weeks prior to harvest for a testing. Subsequent samples are taken to the processor three days before and during the day of processing. A portion of the sample fish is cooked and tasted. If off-flavor is detected during any of the tests, the plant will reject the fish from that pond until the problem is resolved. Once the source of geosmin is no longer present, the fish will metabolize the compound. Purging fish of geosmin may involve moving them into clean well water or merely waiting until the algae bloom dissipates, after which the geosmin will be rapidly metabolized. Within a few days after the source of the problem has been eliminated, the fish can be retested and, if no off-flavor is detected, harvested and processed.
Centralized processing plants specifically designed to handle regional aquaculture crops are established in areas where production is sufficiently high. In coastal regions, aquacultured animals are often processed in plants that also serve capture fisheries.
Marketing can be done by aquaculturists who operate their own processing facilities. Most aquaculture operations depend on a regional processing plant to market the final product. In all cases aquaculturists should remember that their job is not complete until the product reaches the consumer in prime condition.
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