Tilapia Post-Harvest Handling and Transporting

The need for proper handling and processing of tilapia is important both for the fishing industry and for the consumers.

Improvement of the processing and handling of tilapia in terms of quality, product range and volume results in increased economic activity and employment. It is also one way of stabilizing fish marketing by providing an outlet for surplus and peak catch even during emergency harvest, thereby ensuring high fishing activities and stable prices. It can also contribute to the efforts related to nutritional goals.


The quality of fish depends on how it is handled from the time it is taken out from the water until it reaches the kitchen. Fish landed is usually subjected to rough handling treatments. Consider these 3 cardinal rules in handling fresh fish:

1. Cleanliness. Observe cleanliness throughout the fish handling chain. Clean the deck, checkboards and containers thoroughly before the fish haul comes aboard. Clear one haul away before the next ones come aboard. If you have to leave some fish on deck, move them at one side of the deck so that fresh fish are not placed on top of these.

2. Care. The fish you are handling is food, treat it as such.

  • Work on fish as quickly and as promptly as possible.
  • Sort fish properly before packing
  • When fish have to wait on deck or on the fish landing for some time before working on these, cover these to protect them from heat and other elements.
  • Drain fish before icing
  • Avoid brushing the fish
  • Don’t throw, trample or kick the fish

3. Cooling. Temperature is the most important single factor affecting the quality of fish.

  • Use plenty of ice. Put additional layer of ice on top, bottom and side of fish in boxes or shelves
  • Don’t over-fill a box or shelf. The next box or shelf on top will smash the fish below.
  • Lay the fish belly downward – this prevent entry of dirt water into the fish.
  • Don’t pack fish so tightly that melted ice cannot flow.

Fish is cooled more quickly when ice cold water is poured on them. Fish spoils easily when allowed to stay in stagnant water, blood or slime. If the vessels is provide with fish room, store fish in ice as quickly as possible. Make sure the fish room is always kept clean.


Fresh fish transported to far distances must be packed with ice to ensure freshness when they reach the consumers. Proper packing of fresh fish with ice means arranging the fish and ice alternately in the container to maintain 5°C chilling temperature is attained with the ratio of 1 kg of ice to 2 kg of fish. Fresh fish may be transported in styrofoam boxes, conical tubes (bañera) basket (“kaing”/”bayong”) and plastic containers.

The more sophisticated method is the refrigerated truck.

When transporting tilapia within the region, wholesalers pack them in ice. Upon reaching their destination, fish are repacked with ice and sold to retailers and eventually to consumers.

The latest practice of transporting live marketable tilapia in Region 02 from Magat dam fish landings to Santiago, Isabela is in hauling boxes with battery-operated agitators. Magat dam alone ships 1.5-2 tons of tilapia daily to different places within the region.

source: STII and PCARRD, photo from egyptfishportal.org

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