Finfish quality


Finfish — whole or fillet; chilled or thawed

The quality assessment checks listed below are specific to finfish; some entries (e.g. gills) relate only to whole finfish, and others (e.g. flesh colour) relate only to fillets. The eyes, gills, scales and slime of finfish, generally deteriorate faster than the flesh. Refer also to the general quality assessment checks for all sensory criteria (opposite), which cover all seafood.


Check Higher quality Lesser quality Comment

Colour of Gills

Bright red

Beginning to brown

Not all finfish have red gills. Red around the gills may be blood, which can be a result of the catching method.


Translucent, very thin film

Beginning to colour (pink, yellow, brown), clot and thicken

Mucus can be washed out so care needs to be taken if using it as a quality indicator

Gut cavity (if gutted)

Well cleaned, no protruding bones, lining intact

Some yellow or green staining; some torn lining; bones beginning to protrude

If bloodline present, the blood should be bright red.
Lining can be torn during gutting.

Eye Colour

Pupil jet-black, shiny, and well defined
Cornea translucent

Pupil becoming dull and grey
Cornea cloudy, opaque or slightly blood-stained

Finfish eyes can be damaged in numerous ways, and lesser-quality eyes do not necessarily signify poor-quality flesh.
Eye cloudiness can result from not icing the fish correctly or fish being in an ice slurry too long. Thawed finfish can have opaque or cloudy eyes as a result of ice harming the structure of eye tissue.


Lens smooth and bulging (convex)

Lens sunken (concave) or "pushed in" in the centre

Check both eyes—one may be sunken due to physical damage and the flesh may still be of higher quality. Bulging eyes can be caused by pressure changes during capture.

Flesh condition

Firmly attached to any bones,

A few rips, bruises or blood spots; slightly dried-out, ragged edges if cut; separating from bones; slightly gaping

With fillets, also consider (where relevant) clean skin removal, size consistency, and cutting or trimming imperfections.


Variable (white, grey, pink, red, orange, etc.), but usually shiny, translucent; bloodline bright red

Bleached white, opaque; colour beginning to yellow or brown (i.e. red to brown); wrinkled surface or white cottony patches

Flesh tends to dull and yellow with age. Dry cottony patches or wrinkled product surfaces result from dehydration (known as "freezer burn" when severe).