In June 1998 , I started to work in the seafood fresh and frozen fish industry as a quality assurance supervisor and later as quality assurance manager for 5 years in the second biggest processing factory in Manta, Ecuador. We handle more than 30 wild caught tropical species coming from the Pacific Ocean and caught by long liners in fishing periods not longer than 3 weeks.
At that time the fish landings in Manta were very rich in term of volumes, we usually handle Big eye tuna, Yellowfin tuna, Mahi mahi, groupers, flounders, Red Snapper, Lobsters, Mako sharks, Swordfish, etc. The quality control team successfully completed fish and fish product training from the FDA, HACCP pre-requirements and HACCP as well as ISO9001. Based on our experience and knowledge we developed an organoleptic or sensorial score table per specie that help us to evaluate the freshness and initial quality of the fresh fish. Further Microbiological and Chemical analysis tests were done in house by a rapid analysis test and we sent samples to the Ecuadorian Fishery Institute for double check. Our main products were Mahi mahi portions, tuna loins and tuna portions.
Later in 2004 I started as Quality Assurance Auditor for the biggest tuna company Trimarinegroup where I was trained and worked with different processed tuna products: tuna cans, tuna pouches, tuna steaks, tuna fillets and tuna chunks. We also were responsible to assess the quality of the final product and of the raw material together with each quality factory team. The gained experience working in more than 30 tuna factories around the world in 4 continents increased my experience in fish and fish products evaluation.
A couple of important conclusion are:
The quality of a fresh fish and fish product depends 100% on the raw material, therefore depends on the fishing method, the fish handle on-board including the fishing period, storage method and storage time on-board. At the factory, we cannot change the low quality of the raw material, we can only maintain it.
The fish and fish product quality at the processing factory is maintain by the production department and not by the quality. I state this because if the production department does not follow the quality assurance norms and requirements, the fish quality will be on risk.
In general the decomposing of the fish, the quality degradation and the lost of the freshness is a direct relationship of time and temperature exposition.
The development of new products in the tuna fresh industry has always been a challenge. I have seen in different countries excellent products as pasteurised ceviche, canned encebollado, dried and salted tuna, smoked tuna, tuna prosciutto and others. These products have in common that they have been developed in the last 8 to 5 years.
A delicious Tuna Chili Snack
Last year I stayed in Cape Town, South Africa. As usual one of my “must to do”, is to visit the local market of the city and supermarkets to see local seafood products. In a local supermarket I found this beautiful product under the brand “Cape Wild”.
It is a tuna snack, seasoned with local spices and chili. The texture is tender, juicy after baiting and the chili soft taste comes out. After open the package a soft and mixed tuna with species odor come into my nose that makes it attractive for tasting it. The presentation is on small slides cut transversely from a clean tuna loin, the appearance is attractive, it shows a red color and the miotoms are very clearly defined which is a indication of fresh tuna of a medium size (10 kg up). The only down side is that the spices are not homogeneously segregated in all tuna slides, some of them have more than others. In general is a delicious product with a high qualification when comes to taste and quality.