Lobster Insights

Do Barnacles Hurt Lobsters? Exploring the Impact of Barnacles on Lobster Health

Lobsters are one of the most popular seafood delicacies, but have you ever wondered what those white hard things growing on their shells are? Those are barnacles, a type of crustacean related to crabs and shrimps. 12 Barnacles are sessile animals that attach themselves to hard surfaces, such as rocks, ships, whales, and yes, lobsters1 They have a mobile larval stage, but once they mature, they become fixed and use their feathery limbs to filter feed on plankton and detritus12

Barnacles are not uncommon on lobsters, especially on older ones that have not molted for a long time3 But do they harm the lobsters in any way? Are they parasites or just harmless hitchhikers? And are they safe to eat?

The impact of barnacles on lobster health

Barnacles can have both positive and negative effects on lobsters, depending on the number and location of the barnacles. On one hand, barnacles can provide some benefits to lobsters, such as:

On the other hand, barnacles can also cause some problems for lobsters, such as:

The impact of barnacles on lobster health depends on several factors, such as:

The safety of eating barnacles on lobster

Barnacles are edible and delicious, and can be harvested and prepared like any other seafood. However, it is not safe to eat a lobster with barnacles if it was contaminated with dangerous levels of toxins. These toxins could cause Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP), which is a type of shellfish poisoning that is caused by the lobster eating algae that have retained the toxin5

PSP can cause symptoms such as tingling, numbness, drowsiness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, difficulty breathing, paralysis, or even death in severe cases. PSP cannot be detected by sight or smell and cannot be destroyed by cooking or freezing. Therefore, it is important to avoid eating lobsters with barnacles if there is a PSP warning or outbreak in the area5

To prevent PSP, it is advisable to:


Barnacles are a common sight on lobsters, but they are not always harmful to the lobster or to the consumer. Barnacles can have both positive and negative effects on lobster health, depending on the number, location, and type of barnacles. Barnacles are also edible and tasty, but they can be unsafe to eat if they are contaminated with toxins that cause PSP. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the local shellfish safety information and to remove and discard the barnacles from the lobster before cooking or eating.

List of references

5: Are barnacles on lobster safe to eat? [2022] | QAQooking.wiki
1: Barnacle – Wikipedia
3: What type of white hard thing grows on lobster – Biology Stack Exchange
2: What are barnacles? – NOAA’s National Ocean Service
4: Goose barnacle | The Wildlife Trusts