The initial handling of marine fish on board fishing vessels is crucial to retain freshness and ensure an extended shelf life of the resulting fresh products. Here the effect of onboard chitosan treatment of whole, gutted Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) was studied by evaluating the quality and shelf life of loins processed six days post-catch and packaged in air or modified atmosphere (% CO2/ O2/ N2: 55/5/40) and stored superchilled for 11 and 16 days, respectively. Sensory evaluation did not reveal a clear effect of chitosan treatment on sensory characteristics, length of freshness period or shelf life of loins under either packaging conditions throughout the storage period. However, directly after loin processing, microbiological analysis of loins showed that onboard chitosan treatment led to significantly lower total viable counts as well as lower counts of specific spoilage organisms (SSO), such as H2S-producers and Pseudomonas spp., compared to the untreated group. In addition, the culture-independent approach revealed a lower bacterial diversity in the chitosan-treated groups compared to the untreated groups, independently of packaging method. Partial 16S rRNA gene sequences belonging to Photobacterium dominated all sample groups, indicating that this genus was likely the main contributor to the spoilage process.