Sunday, January 7, 2007

I have not done anything lately.

Since last post till today I have done nothing but work nearly 12 hours each day.

The salmon plant is not an easy job, in addition to it being nearly 2 hours on the road each day, the work is quite demanding.

Right now I am just learning the ropes on the safety practices observed, the cleaning procedures and the standards required. Thankfully do not need to do the packing as that's left to others.

There are 2 shifts each day.

Basically the plant is located near a river mouth and the salmons are reared in pens. This is a very common aquaculture way of producing fish and it is arguably the most environmentally friendly manner of having your fish. It can be disputed but it is widely accepted that this is generally the cleanest form of fish as well.

The first shift begins in the day generally around 3pm or so, and pumps are activated in the pens to vacuum the fish into the factory onto a conveyor belt where you have to kill the fish and the fish is moved into large bins (similar to that used in a dumpster) Along the way the fish blood is drained and water is sprayed on the fish and it drops into a bin and ice is pumped into it. There are only about 10 or so people working and each are expected to kill around a fish every 3-4 seconds.

The bins are then stacked up and this goes on till around 10 or so or until the production target is reached.

The other shift begins at 6 in the morning.

On this shift there are several roles that one will have to do.

The first role is the grading table, where a forklift dumps the salmons onto this table and you got to feed it into different slots. Each slot corresponds to a different type of grade the fish is between premium and all the way to discarded.

From this grading station it goes into a Gutting machine, here you stand on a platform and feed the fish into this conveyor belt and this machine made by this company called Baader will slit the belly of the fish, and using a combination of vacuum and high pressure water blast will clean the salmon guts and stuff away. Fairly easy actually this process, but it does not clean the fish out 100% therefore human intervention is still required. Every now and then, this machine will get stuck and you gotta find out why and quickly remedy it so the production does not get hampered.

Should the machine stop, the fish will go from the grading table straight to the human table which is basically this round table and here humans do the cleaning.

At this station, the fish first arrives on a pile up table and you have to remove the gills, and then place it on the rotary carrousel where you use this J hooked knife and slit the fish open from the anus. Then using a spoon like end, you remove much of the guts and anus and you cut up the part where the blood of the fish is still at.

Then someone with a vacuum apparatus will vacuum away the blood.

The fish is then moved onto another conveyor belt where it is graded and cleaned, this conveyor belt is the busiest area of the factory as it is also fed fish from the gutting machine.

You must very quickly remove the gills and then someone with vacuum like apparatus will clean up the entire fish to the standard required.

Then it is weighed and sent to the packaging area.

The packaging area is quite simple really, though it is quite sophisticated in it's own way. Again all the equipment is made by Baader which is from Germany if I am not mistaken.

Basically someone in the office will type out who needs what fish, some of the fish from this small lil factory will go as far away as Japan and nearly every corner of Australia.

The packaging machine will sort the fish according to weight then each of the fish is dropped into a polystyrene box and filled with ice. The box is then sealed up and sent onto trucks.

However not all fish are sent away to customers. Some are sent away to be further processed. Many are sent to a freezing plant where the fish is just kept frozen till the winter months when stocks are low, this ensures a constant supply of fish in the market.

Some of the smaller fish are sent to a plant where they are smoked.

Then there is another batch of fish, usually that looks a bit ugly or deformed or damaged by the machines and can no longer be sold to customers as premium fish, it is sent to a processing plant where it is deboned and filleted. Every now and then I will be sent here.

I am looking forward for next Thursday when it is payday. I have already clocked in 60 hours in 5 days of working.

However I am more looking forward to next Saturday when it will be my day off, officially at least. I hope I could get Sunday off as well but it is highly unlikely that will happen as the factory is on short stuff.

Oh oh and please eat more salmons so I continue to have a job.

Also in case you are wondering, yes I DO get to bring salmons home :)

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