Shellfish is a food source and fisheries term for exoskeleton-bearing
aquatic invertebrates used as food, including various species of
molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Although most kinds of
shellfish are harvested from saltwater environments, some kinds are
found in freshwater. In addition, a few species of land crabs are
eaten, for example
Cardisoma guanhumi in the Caribbean.
Despite the name, shellfish are not a kind of fish, but are simply
water-dwelling animals. Many varieties of shellfish (crustaceans in
particular) are actually closely related to insects and arachnids,
making up one of the main classes of the phylum Arthropoda.
Cephalopods (squids, octopuses, cuttlefish) and bivalves (clams,
oysters) are molluscs, as are
Gastropods (aquatic species such as
whelks and winkles; also land species such as snails and slugs).
Shells are used as a food source by humans include many species of
clams, mussels, oysters, winkles, and scallops. Some crustaceans that
are commonly eaten are shrimp, lobsters, crayfish, and crabs.
Echinoderms are not as frequently harvested for food as molluscs and
crustaceans; however, sea urchin roe is quite popular in many parts of
Most shellfish eat a diet composed primarily of phytoplankton and
Shellfish are among the most common food allergens.
Shellfish in various cuisines
2.1 In Japan
2.2 In the United States
3 Around the world
4 Religious dietary restrictions
6 Toxic content
7 See also
10 External links
The term shellfish is used both broadly and specifically. In common
parlance, as in having "shellfish" for dinner, it can refer to
anything from clams and oysters to lobster and shrimp. For regulatory
purposes it is often narrowly defined as filter-feeding molluscs such
as clams, mussels, and oyster to the exclusion of crustaceans and all
Although the term is primarily applied to marine species, edible
freshwater invertebrates such as crayfish and river mussels are also
sometimes grouped under the umbrella term "shellfish".
Although their shells may differ, all shellfish are invertebrates. As
non-mammalian animals that spend their entire lives in water they are
"fish" in an informal sense; however the term finfish is sometimes
used to distinguish fish as animals defined by having vertebrae from
shellfish in modern terminology.
The word "shellfish" is both singular and plural; the rarely used
"shellfishes" is sometimes employed to distinguish among various types
Shellfish in various cuisines
Archaeological finds have shown that humans have been making use of
shellfish as a food item for hundreds of thousands of years. In the
present, shellfish dishes are a feature of almost all the cuisines of
the world, providing an important source of protein in many cuisines
around the world, especially in the countries with coastal areas.
In the Japanese cuisine, chefs often use shellfish and their roe in
Sushi (vinegared rice, topped with other
ingredients, including shellfish, fish, meat and vegetables) features
both raw and cooked shellfish.
Sashimi primarily consists of very
fresh raw seafood, sliced into thin pieces. Both sushi and sashimi are
served with soy sauce and wasabi paste (a Japanese horseradish root, a
spice with extremely strong, hot flavor), thinly sliced pickled ginger
root, and a simple garnish such as shiso (a kitchen herb, member of
the mint family) or finely shredded daikon radish, or both.
In the United States
Lobster in particular is a great delicacy in the United States, where
families in the Northeast region make them into the centerpiece of a
clam bake, usually for special occasions. Lobsters are eaten on much
of the East Coast; the
American lobster ranges from Newfoundland down
to about the Carolinas, but is most often associated with Maine. A
typical meal involves boiling the lobster with some slight seasoning
and then serving it with drawn butter, baked potato, and corn on the
Clamming is done both commercially and recreationally along the
Northeast coastline of the US. Various type of clams are incorporated
into the cuisine of New England. The soft-shelled clam is eaten either
fried or steamed (and then called "steamers"). Many types of clams can
be used for clam chowder, but the quahog, a hard shelled clam also
known as a chowder clam, is often used because the long cooking time
softens its tougher meat.
Chesapeake Bay and
Maryland region has generally been associated
more with crabs, but in recent years the area has been trying to
reduce its catch of blue crabs, as wild populations have been
depleted. This has not, however, stemmed the demand: Maryland-style
crabcakes are still a well known treat in crabhouses all over the bay,
though the catch now comes from points farther south.
Scallop sandwich served in San Diego
In the Southeast, and particularly the gulf states, shrimping is an
important industry. Copious amounts of shrimp are harvested each year
Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico and the
Atlantic Ocean to satisfy a national
demand for shrimp. Locally, prawns and shrimp are often deep fried; in
the Cajun and Creole kitchens of Louisiana, shrimp and prawns are a
common addition to traditional recipes like jambalaya and certain
stews. Crawfish are a well known and much eaten delicacy there,
often boiled in huge pots and heavily spiced.
In many major cities with active fishing ports, raw oyster bars are
also a feature of shellfish consumption. When served freshly shucked
(opened) and iced, one may find a liquid inside the shell, called the
liquor. Some believe that oysters have the properties of an
Inter-tidal herbivorous shellfish such as mussels and clams can help
people reach a healthy balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in their
diets, instead of the current Western diets. For this reason, the
eating of shellfish is often encouraged by dietitians.
also a rich source of the amino acid taurine.
Around the world
Large shrimp or prawns for sale in Italy
A dish of cooked freshwater nerites from the Rajang River, Sarawak,
Shellfish is a common part of indigenous cuisines throughout the
Some popular dishes using shellfish:
Fruits de mer
Sliced fish soup
Religious dietary restrictions
Main article: Jewish dietary laws
The Old Testament forbids the consumption of shellfish, particularly
in the books of
Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Observant Jews
therefore do not eat shellfish.
While estimates vary from shellfish, approximately 1% of the
population is estimated to suffer from seafood allergy, which is more
common in teenage and adult life than very early childhood. An
estimated 20% will grow out of their allergy with time.
Some shellfish, such as whelk, contain arsenic. A sample of whelk was
found to have a total content of arsenic at 15.42 mg/kg of which 1% is
Spotted trunkfish (also known as "shellfish" in many Caribbean
Shellfish Association of Great Britain
Shellfish Association of Great Britain (SAGB)
Shellfish climbs up the popularity ladder; the category is gaining
chefs' attention for one-of-a-kind signature menu items". HighBeam
Research. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
^ Fabricant, Florence (1998). "
Sea urchin makes waves, popularity
increases on American menus".
Nation's Restaurant News
Nation's Restaurant News via BNET.
Archived from the original on 2012-05-24. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
^ "The sea urchin market in Japan". Marine
Fisheries Review via BNET.
1989. Archived from the original on 2012-05-24. Retrieved
^ "Manual on the Production and Use of Live
Food for Aquaculture".
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Retrieved
Shellfish Alergies". Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved 2009-08-25.
Shellfish Harvesting Areas Archived 11 October 2006 at the
Maryland Department of the Environment
^ Festing, Sally (1999). Fishermen: A Community living from the Sea
(Revised ed.). Stamford: Shaun Tyas. p. 119.
Crawfish Nutritional Facts" Valuepenguin.com
^ O'Connor, Anahad (2005-05-10). "The Claim: Oysters Are
Aphrodisiacs". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved
^ Robson, A. 2006. "
Shellfish view of omega-3 and sustainable
fisheries." Nature 444, 1002.
^ "82/05 October 2005
Arsenic in fish and shellfish" (PDF).
food.gov.uk. 2010-09-08. Retrieved 2013-04-06.
Pawley, Andrew (2004) "Are crustaceans shellfish? A whiff of scandal
in English lexicography" Australian Style, 12 (1): 1–3.
Wikibooks Cookbook has a recipe/module on
Shellfish Growers Association
Shellfish Growers Association
Shellfish Growers Association
Freshwater and Marine Image Bank—Shellfish[permanent dead link] at
the University of Washington Libraries, Digital Collection
Nutrition Facts for Various Shellfish
List of seafoods
Cod liver oil
Shark liver oil
List of seafood dishes
List of crab dishes
List of fish dishes
Fish and chips
Shark fin soup
Fish diseases and parasites
Mercury in fish
Scombroid food poisoning
Sustainable seafood advisory lists and certification
Declawing of crabs
Eating live seafood
Live fish trade
Pain in fish
Pain in crustaceans
Gathering seafood by hand
History of seafood
History of sushi
List of seafood companies
Grooved carpet shell
Ensis (razor genus)
New Zealand green-lipped
Mytilidae (mussel family)
Crassostrea ("true oyster" genus)
Pāua (group of three species)
South African abalone
New Zealand arrow
Land snail farming