We Australians love our seafood, and summer is the season for plenty of locally sourced products. Before your fork out the money, make sure you test for the freshness of the catch.

At this time of year, there is a huge turnover of seafood at local markets and grocers, so it’s important to source your catch carefully. Also, seafood isn’t cheap – so to get the most value for your dollar, determine the freshness of your seafood with four simple senses, and this list:

The Look:

Fresh seafood is stored at close to 1®C, and if kept in a window display, it should be mixed with ice.

Fresh seafood should not be squashed or broken in any way. It should be sold clean, and free of mud and weed.

Oysters, mussels and pipis are sold alive. If the shell has an open gap that does not close, it means the animal is dead and should be thrown out. If it snaps shut, it’s alive and well.

Raw seafood has translucent or white, firm and springy skin – if soft or mushy, don’t buy.

Prawns should be intact with their heads and shells.

Check the eyes of fish – bright pink/red and wet is ideal.

Look for – Bright, firm flesh. No discolouration or bruising


The Feel:

The flesh of fresh seafood is juicy and tender. Prawns, lobsters and squid should be firm – however low quality shellfish may be tough. Lobsters and crabs are sometimes mushy, so don’t be concerned if your bug is a little on the soft side!

Look for – Depending on variety, flesh should bounce back when touched.


The Smell:

The smell of seafood is a close indicator of its freshness. Spoiled seafood has a strong, pungent smell.
Whereas fresh seafood should have a mild, non-offensive smell of the ocean. If you smell ‘fish’, don’t buy!

Look for – Pleasant fresh sea scent


The Taste:

The flavour of seafood disappears the longer it is stored – so taste is a vital test for freshness.

Flavour differs from species to species, but stale seafood is often tasteless and dull.

Also, if the meat separates from itself, it’s not fresh.


Fresh seafood should be kept chilled at all times, and consumed within two days of purchase.

Seafood tips sourced from CSIRO