Quick, what’s your favorite seafood? It’s lobster, isn’t it? Ha, nailed it. It’s certainly a popular choice, but we often overlook what it takes to get our hands on all that yummy shellfish. Whether they’re being shipped en masse, in a group, or even individually, it takes real work and planning to know how to ship lobster. Let’s look at the complexities and proper practices for shipping just a few of these delicious delicacies.

What You’ll Need

Know Their Shipping Requirements

Lobsters are packaged, shipped and delivered in a variety of ways—live or dead, frozen or chilled, whole or in parts. The biggest differentiator is whether they’re alive or dead, as live lobsters not only need access to oxygen, they’re also sensitive to temperature changes and must be properly secured.

First, avoid feeding them for 2-3 days before shipping. By not feeding them, they’re more likely to be relaxed during transit and will use less oxygen.

Then, rubber band their claws. This prevents them from damaging the packaging and potentially harming themselves. Banding their claws also prevents them from snapping at their new owner. This, of course, is an essential part of keeping a customer happy.

Finally, and this is one of the most important things to remember: you must keep them cool. A rise in temperature (or a reduction in moisture) during shipping can kill live lobsters and cause dead lobsters to spoil. No one wants all that work and money to be for nothing.

Take note that many areas have their own rules about live-animal shipping. Be sure you especially pay attention to local shipping laws. Some require a special permit, that animals be shipped in a specific way, or that said animals must be killed prior to shipping.

Keep Them Safe by Using Insulated Packaging

Insulated shipping kits are the ideal shipping carton for lobsters. They come with a protective foam container that keeps lobsters protected from their surroundings. These boxes come pre-printed with ‘Perishable’, ‘Rush’, and ‘This Side Up’ arrows. Insulated packaging kits also provide natural cushioning, necessary for shipping all forms of lobsters.

For businesses looking to figure out how to ship lobster in bulk (especially a short distance), using corrugated dividers is a common practice. It keeps lobsters upright, organized and separated from each other. This prevents packaging damage and stops lobsters from colliding with their neighbor (and getting into fights). This requires a custom packaging solution, as you must know the dimensions and spacing your shipping container needs.  

Keep Them Moist & Cool

Lobsters must be kept in a cool and moist environment to stay alive and fresh. Be sure to use cold packs or gel packs, which keep lobsters (dead or alive) chilled throughout their journey. Never use dry ice, as not only will the carbon dioxide suffocate them, contact with it will freeze and crack lobster shells. That’ll ruin shape, texture, and flavor. Something no one wants.

Cold packs shouldn’t touch lobsters directly as they can crush or contaminate their shells. Using corrugate dividers or pads can ensure both lobsters and insulated packs stay separated.

Lobsters are sea creatures and need to be kept moist throughout their journey. Wrapping them in damp packing paper or seaweed provides their bodies with enough moisture to keep them both alive and in good health (essential for a tasty lobster!).

Seal Them Securely

Lobsters, living or dead, need to be secured properly to prevent them from being crushed. Even though they’re hard-shelled, they’re still delicate and need to be packed and transported appropriately. The key (when it comes to how to ship lobster properly) is to secure them just enough that they don’t have room to move around, but aren’t too constricted, either.

The biggest risk of death for lobsters is suffocation. The more lobsters move, the more oxygen they use, upping the chances they’ll expire before reaching their destination. Securing them properly keeps them calmer, they move around less, and you’ll have a little more time to ship them.

Securing lobster shipments using cold temperature tape is a necessity. Be sure to simply use a strip of tape to close your boxes. While the H-tape method is certainly more secure, it also cuts off air flow to the lobsters inside.

Ship Smartly

Even when packed correctly, live lobsters have a limited lifespan during shipping. Therefore, expedited shipping (at the least) is highly recommended. Overnight shipping is best as it limits the amount of time lobsters are left out of their natural environment. Even when following these packaging considerations, lobsters will not live past a handful of days. If overnight shipping is impractical or uneconomical, ship Monday to Wednesday so they aren’t stuck in a delivery warehouse over a weekend.

While dead lobsters are not as sensitive as live ones, they only last for as long as their cold packs do. They need to be placed in a refrigerated area as soon as possible to remain edible. If lobsters are delivered live, they should be cooked the day they are received. Dead lobsters (either whole or in parts) can be preserved for a little later.

Requiring a signature on delivery means that lobster is received and processed quickly. This helps prevent any customer complaints. Work with customers to find the best time for lobster delivery.

Learning how to ship lobster properly takes a lot of planning and prep work. We’re confident you’ve now got the know-how to ship them effectively, and appreciate the care that goes into delivering them. When you’re ready to start shipping red-shelled crustaceans, be sure to visit the Insulated category here at The Packaging Company. You’ll have access to everything you’ll need.