Ace Aquatec’s system works on all sizes and species of fish and can be used in factories or on boats or barges.
‘The Humane Stunner Universal came from seeing problems with animal welfare and operational inefficiency that we thought could be solved by bringing new thinking to an old challenge,’ said Mike Forbes, head of sales and marketing at Ace Aquatec.
‘When harvesting fish, there’s potential for the slaughter process to be highly stressful for the fish. With our stunner, fish are unconscious before they even leave the water to be processed.’
The Humane Stunner Universal is a system in which fish pass through a pipe containing a section of electrified water.
‘The pipe has several electrodes coating its inside,’ he explained.
‘Through the electrodes, we pass electricity into the water. When the fish enter that electrified section of water they become unconscious in less than one second. This speed of stunning is crucial to maintaining the highest level of animal welfare standards.’
There are also some secondary benefits such as better product quality, increased harvest speed, and improved egg production at hatcheries. Ace Aquatec introduced in-water electric stunning to Alaskan hatchery Southern Southeast Regional Aquaculture Association (SSRAA) to help improve their egg production process.
Mike Forbes says that reducing fish stress leads to better results all round.
‘Happy animals taste better. If an animal has gone through considerable stress at the end of its life, that affects flesh quality and shelf life,’ he said. ‘Increased cortisol levels in fish can result from stress and affect flesh quality, and the meat of an animal that’s had a stressful end of life won’t last as long. Anything you can do to reduce stress at the end of an animal’s life has a huge impact on end product quality.’
With big retailers committed to the highest possible welfare standards in their supply chain, the adoption of stunning technology shows no sign of slowing down.
‘There’s growing pressure from consumers and retailers when it comes to fish welfare,’ he said. ‘Fish farmers are very aware of this and are always on the look out for new technologies that can improve their welfare credentials.’
Following the welfare trends seen in the aquaculture industry, wild-caught fisheries are also turning to Ace Aquatec for support. Seine netters and trawlers have expressed an interest, while talks are underway with companies that are looking to improve their fish welfare standards.
Michael Burns at Blue North agrees that for wild-caught fish, market pressures are likely to spur more considerate killings. Blue North currently sells its Humane Harvest cod in restaurants and markets in Seattle and receives a premium. Director of Business Development Amelia Burns says there is growing consumer awareness in Seattle of how food has been processed.
‘Consumers are more likely to buy humanely-treated fish,’ she said. ‘They’re also keen to know how their food was handled and how it ended up on their plate. It’s not just where the food comes from. We know it comes from Alaska but what else happened to it is also important. That’s something that we try to educate our customers about.’
‘More supermarkets want their fish suppliers to guarantee that their fish have been humanely stunned,’ Optimar’s Frode Kjølås added.
‘This has allowed us to help suppliers prove their sustainability credentials. Meanwhile, Norwegian law states that all farmed fish must be stunned humanely, and such a law will undoubtedly be implemented for wild caught fisheries.’