Date of Award
Master of Science
The introduction and spread of two Asian Carp species, Bighead carp Hypophthalmichthys nobilis and silver carp Hypophthalmichthys molitrix have caused severe ecological damage throughout North America. Currently, academic institutions, and state and federal agencies are investigating ways of controlling the spread of these species and managing existing populations to minimize further damage. One promising method of control is the commercial harvest of Asian carps for export to China, as both species are highly valued foodfish throughout Asia. Habitat modification and destruction, along with the questionable quality of fish produced in aquaculture facilities throughout China, have caused members of the foodfish industry to search elsewhere for a high quality product destined for middle and upper class consumers in China. At this time, harvest practices are not standardized, and taking market potential into consideration, it is important to optimize aspects of harvest so commercial fishermen and processors can supply consumers with the highest quality product. Therefore, the present studies evaluated the effects of season (summer and fall), geographic origin (Alton and Peoria Reach), and harvest gear type (trammel nets and hoop nets) on commercially caught fresh fish and those subjected to standard processing practices and simulated shipping conditions to China (blast frozen to core temperatures near - 33oC and stored at- 20oC for 6 wk) using quality evaluation methods common in the foodfish industry. Impacts of season, geographical origin, and gear type on fresh Bighead and silver carp were assessed using fillet internal and external pH, color, Torrymeter freshness, and proximate analysis (percent moisture, protein, lipid, and ash). The effects of season, geographical origin, and gear type on fish processed and held under simulated shipping conditions were analyzed using fillet internal and external pH, color, Torrymeter freshness, K value, and peroxide and aldehyde concentrations. Results indicate negligible effects of season of harvest or geographical origin on final quality of Asian carp products, but the optimization of Asian carp products may require only exporting Bighead carp. Hoop nets yielded better quality fish overall, indicating that commercial fishermen should consider using these specifically for the harvest of fish destined for human consumption. Information assembled in this research can be used by commercial fishermen and processors to develop standardized methods for the harvest of Asian carps. Providing a high quality product is vital considering market potential and the resulting economic stimulation provided to fiscally starved areas where these facilities are located. Most importantly, the development of this industry could, in conjunction with continued academic and agency efforts, offer an independent solution to the serious ecological threat posed by these species.
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