Shipping Fresh Seafood: A 6-Step Delivery Process

keyKey Takeaways:

  • Fresh seafood needs to be carefully wrapped and sent in a timely way, to guarantee its quality and freshness upon arrival.
  • Maintaining the seafood’s temperature and quality while it is being transported requires careful consideration of the shipping method and carrier.
  • To keep the fresh seafood’s quality, it’s crucial to instruct customers on how to handle and store it.
  • Keeping an eye on industry rules and best practices, such as those from the FDA and HACCP, can assist companies in remaining legal and upholding strict standards.

Setting up a seafood business and shipping fresh food can be challenging due to time and temperature restrictions. But that need not be the case. Understanding your products, transport process, and right packaging techniques will help you establish a fresh seafood shipping business without any bother. 

The live fish carrier market is valued at around $3 billion and is expected to grow to $3.2 billion. This means now is the best time to capitalize on the profitable shipping fresh or frozen seafood market. 

If you are someone looking to start fresh seafood transporting business, this detailed shipping fresh seafood guide will help you get a head start. 

Why Should You Keep Your Seafood Pre-cooled?

You don’t want to ruin your seafood (your frozen or fresh fish, for example) even before it gets onto the delivery truck. Seafood must be frozen or kept in a cold environment to extend its storage life span. And it can be difficult to maintain the lower temperature while the seafood passes through multiple packaging processes. 

In the pre-cooling process, all the packing logistics are handled in a cold temperature-controlled area to prevent high temperatures from affecting the product. This area is often referred to as the cold room. The assembly area is cooled using air conditioners or cold air blowers. You can also set up a walk-in freezer for smaller operations. 

What are Carrier Options for Shipping Seafood?

When buying seafood online, customers trust that they’ll get a fresh catch. FedEx, UPS, and USPS are all great carrier options to ensure the same. These are thus your best bet to ship fresh seafood.

1. USPS for smaller perishable shipments

USPS is better suited for sending smaller perishable shipments. Furthermore, they offer the lowest prices out of the three. The delivery speed is also decent. But opt for Priority Mail Express if you want to make the most of the USPS service. As the name suggests, the delivery is made within 24 to 48 hours of placing the order. 

2. FedEx and UPS for larger shipments 

If you want to send larger shipments, FedEx and UPS will make it easier for you. Both of them have larger shipment options compared to USPS. Moreover, their delivery speed is faster than that of USPS. However, they have strict regulations about packaging seafood. 

FedEx even mentions the temperature range for the seafood. They also mention the dimensions for the boxes that you should use to pack your fresh seafood. USP also has similar guidelines. Additionally, you need to declare the use of dry ice as a refrigerant as it is considered a hazardous item in large quantities. 

3. Start your own delivery branch by utilizing a route optimization software

You are free to start your delivery branch for your seafood business if you do not like the offers from established postal companies. You can use route planner software, like Upper, to plan out your deliveries. Route planners software also shows you the fastest route to make the deliveries, which is especially useful in shipping seafood.

6 Simple Steps for Shipping Fresh Seafood Safely

Let’s quickly discuss the six steps to safely ship seafood.

1. Maintain low temperatures

Slight variations in temperatures can massively affect the shelf life of the seafood. 

  • For example, fish remains fresh for almost eight months when frozen to negative 20­°C after a couple of hours of catching them. 
  • But if frozen to negative 15°C, it stays edible only for a month. 
  • Therefore, understanding the correct freezing and storage temperature helps protect your food during transit. 

Maintaining a consistent temperature for your seafood shipment during a long-haul transit is crucial. You must use high-precision thermometers to track the temperature in the container boxes. Paying a little caution to the temperature can greatly enhance the product experience for your end customers. 

2. Use appropriate container design 

Most seafood and frozen food carriers complete their deliveries within 30 hours. But most carriers plan and optimize their delivery routes to complete them within 24 hours. You can also achieve these delivery times using Upper Route Planner.

  • Coming to containers, they should be designed to maintain lower temperatures throughout the 30-hour journey. Preferably, the temperature should be below -5°C and the temperature should not go any higher than 0°C. 
  • The container should have at least five inches of insulating material to achieve and maintain such low temperatures. Try using materials with low thermal leakage, which also prevents moisture penetration. 
  • Aluminium is a suitable and sturdy metal to craft the outer layer of such containers. For the inner lining, you can use styrofoam or thermal air pockets.

3. Follow the proper storage process

Different seafood will have different processes. Hence, you should learn the correct method of storage for your shipment. 

  • For example, mussels and clams are stored in shallow pans without water. Just cover the shellfish with a moist paper towel and refrigerate them. 
  • Similarly, after you receive a fresh batch of fish, rinse them with cold water to keep them fresh and remove any germs or contaminants. 
  • Completely pat dry the fish with towels and store them in shallow pans. 
  • If the commute exceeds 24 hours, cover the fish with ice and tightly wrap it with plastic. Use the refrigerator to thaw the fish. 

Following the proper methods for storage and seafood transfer can vastly enhance the storage life span of your seafood. 

4. Prevent heat from entering containers

Only maintaining lower temperatures will not help you make effective delivery of seafood. You also have to focus on managing heat. Heat management is a major concern for seafood delivery businesses that regularly transport their packages across the states.

  • Insulated materials work well to prevent the heat from entering the containers, but some of it always passes through. Any temperature increase will negatively affect seafood products. 
  • Temperatures can rise to 10°C inside the shipping container. According to a research study, any temporary rise in temperature can discolor the food and reduce the vitamin content. 
  • A Canadian experiment also displayed that temporarily raising the temperature to 15°C, then bringing it down, can shorten the storage life span of seafood by six weeks. 
  • The best way to manage heat is to transport your frozen seafood packages in refrigerated trucks. But if you’re looking for a more affordable option, consider investing in better refrigerants. 

5. Use proper refrigerants

Use proper refrigerants to ship fresh seafood

Knowing how to use refrigerants is going to be a lifesaver to safely deliver such perishable products to the final destination.

  • Ideally, frozen fish, with a bit of ice, stays good for the entire transit duration. But it also requires ideal conditions where even the weather has a manageable temperature.
  • On the other hand, transporting carefully packaged fresh fish requires the use of refrigerants. Cool or frozen gel packs, dry ice packs, and wet ice are refrigerants you use to ship fresh fish. Gel packs are the best refrigerant choice among the options provided earlier. Wet ice is also effective but will melt faster and flood the container. 
  • Adding salt to the ice lowers the freezing points and prevents it from melting. Dry ice or frozen carbon dioxide is another excellent choice, but you need to handle it carefully. Seafood carriers have strict instructions about packing dry ice in their containers. 

If you are shipping frozen seafood to any airline, you must go through their dry ice guidelines. 

6. Get suitable boxes

You will come across foam, wax, and plastic boxes while searching for the right package for your seafood. There are several different factors that you need to consider while choosing the best one for seafood shipping.

  • If you are packing your frozen seafood with ice and worried about the humidity, you should opt for wax boxes. 
  • Styrofoam boxes are more suitable for when you are transporting frozen seafood along with dry ice. 
  • Similarly, plastic boxes are suitable for shipping fresh fish on a bed of wet ice. 

The choice of the package might change depending on the size or the cut of the fish you are transporting. As you can see, you have to look closely at your products before deciding on the best packaging box for them. 

Challenges Faced by Delivery Businesses for Shipping Seafood

While operating a seafood delivery business, you will face countless challenges. But there are two major challenges you should be aware of. 

1. Cold Room set up

While pre-cooling is recommended for handling seafood packaging, it is easier said than done. Setting up a cold room is expensive. It also requires constant monitoring to ensure it is at the correct operating temperature. One mistake can ruin a whole batch of seafood. 

2. Transportation delay 

Seafood deliveries are highly time-sensitive. Any unexpected delays during transportation can cause the packages to defrost, thereby reducing the freezer life span. Hence, you have to factor these delays into your delivery schedule. 

Top Seafood Delivery Services

Customers are looking to buy seafood online, and delivering high-quality seafood helps your seafood business grow. 

Looking to deliver fish fillets, fresh fish, whole fish, wild salmon, wild sockeye salmon, fresh salmon, Maine redfish, Maine lobster, or lobster tails?

When looking for a better choice and freshness, a seafood delivery service allows you to order fish online with no extra charges. These sustainable fisheries ensure that your seafood arrives fresh to your doorstep.

  • Fulton Fish Market
  • Salmon Sister 
  • Wild Alaskan Company
  • Downeast Dayboat
  • Taylor Shellfish Farms
  • Sea to Table
  • Honolulu Fish Company
  • Browne Trading Co.
  • Patagonia Provisions

Fulton Fish Market is an all-rounder, while all the others offer special services for a single type of seafood. 

Perform Seafood Delivery Under Minutes with Upper Route Planner

Managing seafood logistics is no easy task. But it can be made easier using Upper Route Planner. Upper aims to remove paper-based logistic documentation and make it more convenient for you to offer dock-to-door delivery service while reducing shipping costs.

Here are some of the top features of Upper Route Planner to help you safely ship fish or other seafood. 

1. Save 95% of your planning time

Upper automates route planning and optimization in a few minutes, eliminating manual dependencies. Planning and optimizing routes manually invites errors and is painfully exhausting. You don’t want to drain time planning routes when you could invest the same time handling more pressing seafood shipping business matters. Thus, reducing transit time through automation allows you to focus on the core aspects of your business.

2. Find shortest routes to deliver seafood

Upper’s algorithm helps plan the shortest routes to deliveries. This prevents the seafood from going bad, helps you in shipping fresh fish, and also reduces your gas bill by 40%. 

3. Complete seafood delivery on time 

Complete seafood delivery on time 

Our route optimization feature ensures that delivery drivers can do the maximum number of deliveries without any backtracking. The delivery routes can also be optimized based on delivery constraints and priority deliveries—low, medium, or urgent.

4. Prevent failed seafood deliveries

With Upper, you can share delivery status + ETA with your customers via automatic notifications. 

This saves your seafood or such perishable items from getting spoiled, which may happen if customers are unaware of the ETA and aren’t present at the delivery time.

Here’s a 7 days free Upper trial for you.


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All of the seafood carriers suggest tightly packing fresh seafood (or fresh fish) with plastic wrap while using wet ice as a refrigerant. However, the rules and regulations for shipping fresh seafood (or freshest fish) vary wildly depending on the seafood you are transporting and your shipping carrier.

There are no fixed shipping charges to ship seafood overnight. Seafood (overnight) delivery businesses and carriers have different prices ranging from $7 per pound to $40 for bigger orders.

Surprisingly, you can ship live seafood provided you can fit the live seafood inside the prescribed, cooler or styrofoam boxes, with enough liners to prevent leaks.

You have to package frozen fish in different materials using different refrigerants like dry ice without affecting the temperature of seafood during the packing process to ship seafood safely.


That’s everything you want to know about the fresh seafood delivery business. Learning the right packaging method for seafood is winning half the battle. Your shipping carrier partners or delivery drivers are responsible for securing the win in the other half.

But they cannot deliver fresh seafood in time if they are driving on inefficient routes. That’s where route planner software like Upper comes in. It automates that route planning and optimization process for you and improves the overall experience of tracking and delivering seafood. Start the 7 days free trial today.

Author Bio
Rakesh Patel
Rakesh Patel

Rakesh Patel, author of two defining books on reverse geotagging, is a trusted authority in routing and logistics. His innovative solutions at Upper Route Planner have simplified logistics for businesses across the board. A thought leader in the field, Rakesh's insights are shaping the future of modern-day logistics, making him your go-to expert for all things route optimization. Read more.