Soft Shell Lobsters

Article by Cody Schmeer, Director of Operations

Lobsters go through many changes in their lives. Alike most species in the world, lobsters grow throughout their lifetime. In order to grow bigger, the lobsters must undergo a vital process called Molting. A lobster’s shell is hard and inelastic and therefore has limited space for growth. When it is a lobsters time to grow, it will begin forming a new, soft shell beneath its hard exterior. When the new shell is fully formed, the lobster will begin drinking an excessive amount of water causing it to swell, resulting in the cracking of the old shell. Once the hard shell is crack, the lobster will slip out of the old shell and abandon it forever. The new soft shell is paper thin thus making it vulnerable to injury during handling and shipping. All soft shell lobsters should be examined before they are put into a lobster tank to ensure it is alive.

How often does a lobster molt?

A lobster loses its shell as many as 25 times during the first six to seven years of its life. After about seven years a female lobster will Molt approximately every two years and a male lobster every year. The Molting process typically occurs in the spring or fall.

Are they weaker than hard shell lobsters?

YES- Soft Shell Lobsters, having recently molted, are in a weakened and vulnerable state. Many soft shell lobsters will not make it into a lobster tank because of this. Slight temperature swings of two degrees or more (up or down) will result in many weakened and dead soft shell lobsters.

How should soft shell lobsters be stored?

Soft shell lobsters can be kept alive for at least 48 hours at refrigerated temperatures. AVOID packing them on freshwater ice because the cold temperature can eventually kill the lobsters. If the seafood staff intends on putting soft shell lobsters in the tank, they must be purged. This process allows the staff to individually inspect each lobster before submerging them in the tank. If a soft shell lobster is visibly weak, do not add it to the tank, it will kill them.

What is the correct temperature for storing soft shell lobsters?
The correct temperature is 48 degree Fahrenheit. Healthy bacteria will not grow in water colder than that.

Here is a video of a Lobster going through the molting process we found on youtube. Stay tuned for more lobster information!

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