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12 January 2012

Homarus americanus (American lobster)

Publication: CABI Compendium
Datasheet Types: Natural enemy, Vector of animal disease, Cultured aquatic species, Invasive species, Host animal


This datasheet on Homarus americanus covers Identity, Overview, Associated Diseases, Pests or Pathogens, Distribution, Dispersal, Biology & Ecology, Environmental Requirements, Natural Enemies, Impacts, Uses, Management, Genetics and Breeding, Economics, Further Information.


Preferred Scientific Name
Homarus americanus Milne Edwards, 1887
Preferred Common Name
American lobster
Other Scientific Names
Astacus americanus Stebbing, 1893
Astacus marinus Say, 1817
Homarus mainensis Berrill, 1956
International Common Names
buckle shell
Canadian lobster
crack backer
hard shell lobster
Maine lobster
Massach Maine lobster
new shell
northern Atlantic lobster
northern lobster
old shell lobster
bogavante Americano
homard Americain
homard Americano
Local Common Names
Amerikansk hummer
Amerikansk hummer
Amerikansk hummer


Male American lobster, captured in southeastern Norway.
Male American lobster
Male American lobster, captured in southeastern Norway.
Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway


The American lobster, Homarus americanus, is a highly sought-after seafood; there has been considerable research on the aquaculture of this species for seafood markets and fisheries stock enhancement. American lobsters support an important commercial fishery along the northeastern coast of the USA and Canada. Techniques for the controlled reproduction and growth of American lobsters have been developed as a result of significant research conducted in Canada, Europe and the USA in the 1970s. Sastry (1976) described an experimental culture-research facility for culturing lobsters from egg incubation to minimum market size. Although technically straightforward to culture, the need to individually confine H. americanus during the ongrowing phase is a serious constraint to commercial viability. Prospects for enhancing wild stocks and ranching hatchery-reared juveniles on natural and artificial reefs are currently being examined. Nicosia and Lavalli (1999) provide an historical review of homarid lobster fisheries, the development and use of hatcheries and much of the research influenced by hatchery-initiated studies on natural history, physiology and morphological development of Homarus spp. American lobsters are at the time being (2008) not cultivated outside North America. Live export to other continents is the major vector for distribution of this species outside its native region (van der Meeren et al., 2010). Since 1999, the lobster industry in the southern region of the normal distribution range in USA has suffered from the chitinolytic shell disease (epizootic shell disease).

Summary of Invasiveness

H. americanus is a long-lived, omnivorous lobster than can tolerate a wide temperature range. The species is a large-sized benthic organism, with a short-lasting planktonic larval stage. The North American stock is known to migrate seasonally, sometimes over great distances, but not outside its normal range. The larvae hatch close to the shore. The production cycle takes two years. Multiple clutches are produced after one incubation.
Due the high market value, several attempts at transplanting this species have been conducted, but with no apparent luck. All these transplants were in regions without native homarid lobster species. Live export internationally is the major vector for distribution of this species today. It has been recorded in European waters since 1999, in the range of the locally endangered European lobsters. In 2010 introduced lobsters with epizootoic shell disease as well as carrying hybrid offspring were detected in Norwegian waters. No ecological impacts have been seen, but spread of disease to native lobsters is recognized as the highest threat factor.

Taxonomic Tree

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The colour of H. americanus varies from individual to individual. Most are olive green or greenish brown, and attributed to diet, heredity and exposure to light; red, albino and even blue specimens have, however, been observed. They may also have orange, reddish, dark green or black speckles, and a bluish tinge at the joints. H. americanus can achieve a maximum body length of 64 cm, but is usually around 25 cm or less. This species is one of the largest decapod species known as far as body length is concerned. The largest male on record weighed 19.25 kg and was 63.4 cm long while the heaviest female weighed 8.35 kg. H. americanus can only increase its size by moulting periodically. Age at first maturity is about 3-4 years with a body weight of 200-700 g. The first of the five pairs of walking legs is asymmetrical and modified to form the large crusher claw and the small, cutter or seizer claw. Six pairs of swimmerets or pleopods, the last pair enlarged to form the tail fan, can be found under the abdomen. The shield-like shell covering the main part of the lobster's body is known as the carapace. H. americanus has compound eyes mounted on movable stalks. Males have sharp spines under the abdomen; female spines are blunt. The male's abdomen is also narrower than the width of the carapace; in the female these are about equal or larger. See Williams (1995) and Holthuis (1991) for full description. The two long antennae are touch and pressure sensitive while the pair of branched, shorter antennules are the lobster’s ’nose‘. Olfaction is the most sensitive perception in lobsters and important part of their ability to socialize, navigate and search for food (Atema and Voight, 1995).
Although colouration, morphology and body proportions usually are slightly different between the American and European lobster (Homarus gammarus) (Holthuis, 1991), the variations within each species are substantial. It is hard to tell the difference with certainty. In Norway, Sweden and Denmark, DNA analysis is required before species conclusion can be made (Jørstad et al., 2006).

Pathogens Carried

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H. americanus is native to the northwest Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Labrador. It is abundant off Maine, southwest Nova Scotia, and the Gulf of St Lawrence coastline of the Maritimes. Introductions for aquaculture have been made to the west coasts of the USA and Canada, North Sea coast of Europe, to Italy and Japan.

Distribution Map

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Distribution Table

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History of Introduction and Spread

There have been attempts to transplant this species to the west coast of North America but success has been limited. Efforts to transplant lobsters to the Pacific Ocean date to 1873 and to 1889 for the states of California and Washington, respectively (Rathbun, 1892) but nothing resulted from these early attempts. In the early 1970s, California again attempted to develop an American lobster fishery along its coast. However, following concerns that H. americanus would displace Panulirus interruptus, release of wild American lobsters was not recommended. In Canada, transplantation of H. americanus to the east coast of Vancouver Island was attempted as early as 1896 and in 1905 and 1908 (Fraser, 1916); no information is available on the fate of these lobsters as there was no controlled observation following transplantation. In 1973, the Canadians discontinued a 6-year trial in which H. americanus was relocated to the waters off British Columbia. The decision to drop the project was attributed to economics.
There have also been attempts to introduce H. americanus to Japan, France and Italy. An attempt to introduce H. americanus into waters off Japan as early as 1915, was not successful. However, recent attempts (Kittaka et al., 1983; Kittaka, 1984) to transplant them appear to have been more successful, with H. americanus successfully reproducing in cages and in large pools. It was found breeding in local waters of Sanriku in the 1980s, but this has not been followed up by the Japanese fisheries (J Kittaka, Research Institute for Marine Biological Science, Hokkaido, Japan, personal communication, 2008). In France during the 1970s purebred H. americanus and hybrid H. americanus/H. gammarus were produced for release as genetically marked specimens to test whether release of juveniles could add to the native stock (Adouine andLeglise, 1972; Latrouite and Lorec, 1991). However, the release programme was stopped before the survival of these lobsters could be assessed (Agnalt et al., 1999).
H. americanus has occasionally been captured in Northern European waters (Jørstad et al., 2006; van der Meeren et al., 2010). The causes for most of the cases are not known. However, the morphological similarities between the European lobster and American lobster can confuse, and it is a common misbelief that these two are the same species. However, the origins of H. americanus  recorded near Iceland (van der Meeren et al., 2010) and Denmark (Jørstad et al., 2007a) are not known.
In Norway escape from holding facilities has been recorded as the cause for at least two separate H. americanus populations, one in southern Norway, outside Kristiansand and one in Western Norway, outside Bergen (Jørstad et al., 2006). Certain identification of nineteen individuals in Norway was reported at the end of 2007 (AL Agnalt, Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway, personal communication, 2008). Unconfirmed rumours suggest that at least one intentional release of H. americanus occurred  in Oslo, Norway sometime around 1990, which possibly was the source for the first recordings in 1999 (van der Meeren et al., 2000). The first observation in Denmark was in December 2006 (Jørstad et al., 2007a).


Introduced toIntroduced fromYearReasonsIntroduced byEstablished in wild throughReferencesNotes
Natural reproductionContinuous restocking
CaliforniaUSA1873, 1970 
CanadaCanada1896, 1965 NoNoTo Vancouver Island
CanadaCanada1989 NoNoTo Labrador
Denmark 2007  NoNo 
France  1972-1976 NoNo 
Iceland 1960-1965  NoNo
van der Meeren et al. (2010)
Wickins and Lee (2002)
Kittaka (1984)
Kittaka and et al. (1983)
Not reported after 1990
Norway 1990-2007 NoNo
van der Meeren et al. (2000)
van der Meeren et al. (2010)
From USA and/or Canada
OceaniaUSA  NoNo  
UKEurope2011  NoNo 
Rathbun (1892)

Risk of Introduction

H. americanus is exported live in huge quantities from northeastern America. This provides  opportunities for both intentional and accidental releases in new regions. Even if berried females are protected in the fisheries, females spawning in the holding facilities are exported. Larvae hatched in holding facilities without barriers from the sea may drift into the sea in areas outside the species natural range. Adult H. americanus recently found in UK waters, may originate from either release experiments, escape from holding facilities or from unauthorized releases (Stebbing et al. 2012; Green et al., 2013). Landings of egg-carrying females are banned in Norway, but it is known that they can spawn in captivity after being captured. H. americanus females can even produce multiple clutches over at least the two years following one mating and can therefore be reproductive for some years even without the presence of a mate (Aiken and Waddy, 1995).

Pathway Causes

Pathway causeNotesLong distanceLocalReferences
Aquaculture (pathway cause)USAYes 
Kittaka (1984)
Escape from confinement or garden escape (pathway cause)Live export/import, AquacultureYes 
Intentional release (pathway cause) Yes 
Kittaka (1984)
Live food or feed trade (pathway cause) Yes 
Research (pathway cause) Yes 
Kittaka (1984)
Smuggling (pathway cause)USA, Canada to EuropeYes 
van der Meeren et al. (2010)

Pathway Vectors

Pathway vectorNotesLong distanceLocalReferences
Aircraft (pathway vector) Yes 
van der Meeren et al. (2010)
Aquaculture stock (pathway vector) Yes 
Kittaka (1984)
Consumables (pathway vector) Yes 
Live seafood (pathway vector) Yes 
van der Meeren et al. (2010)
Luggage (pathway vector) Yes 
van der Meeren et al. (2010)


Circulatory System

The circulatory system is simple, consisting of a heart, and an extensive set of vessels which lead from the heart to the other parts of the body. These vessels terminate with the blood (haemolymph) flowing into blood sinuses which perfuse the tissues directly. Haemolymph is a colourless fluid which contains proteins and haemocytes. The haemocytes play a role in clotting, hardening the skeleton and immune defence. The oxygen-carrying molecule is the large copper-containing hemocyanin.

Habitat List

CategorySub categoryHabitatPresenceStatus
Other Stored productsSecondary/tolerated habitatProductive/non-natural
Littoral Coastal areasPrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral Coastal areasPrincipal habitatNatural
Littoral Coastal areasPrincipal habitatProductive/non-natural
Littoral Mud flatsSecondary/tolerated habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral Mud flatsSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural
Littoral Mud flatsSecondary/tolerated habitatProductive/non-natural
Littoral Intertidal zoneSecondary/tolerated habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
Littoral Intertidal zoneSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural
Littoral Intertidal zoneSecondary/tolerated habitatProductive/non-natural
Brackish EstuariesSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural
Brackish LagoonsSecondary/tolerated habitatNatural
Marine Benthic zonePrincipal habitatHarmful (pest or invasive)
Marine Benthic zonePrincipal habitatNatural
Marine Benthic zonePrincipal habitatProductive/non-natural
Other VectorPresent, no further detailsHarmful (pest or invasive)
Other VectorPresent, no further detailsProductive/non-natural


Climate typeDescriptionPreferred or toleratedRemarks
C - Temperate/Mesothermal climateAverage temp. of coldest month > 0°C and < 18°C, mean warmest month > 10°CPreferred 

Water Tolerances

ParameterMinimum valueMaximum valueTypical valueStatusLife stageNotes
Ammonia [unionised] (mg/l)  <0.014OptimumAdult 
Copper (mg/l)  <0.01OptimumAdult 
Depth (m b.s.l.)150 Optimum 1->500 tolerated
Dissolved oxygen (mg/l)  6.4OptimumAll Stages>0.2-1.2 tolerated
Salinity (part per thousand)  <8.0HarmfulAdult 
Salinity (part per thousand)3031.5 OptimumLarval 
Salinity (part per thousand)3035 OptimumAll Stages>8.0-14 tolerated
Water pH (pH)7.88.2 OptimumAdult 
Water temperature (ºC temperature)1521 OptimumEgg 
Water temperature (ºC temperature)1823 OptimumAdult-1-30.5 tolerated
Water temperature (ºC temperature)2127 OptimumLarval 

Diseases, Disorders and Natural Enemies


Gaffkaemia is the most important disease of clawed lobsters in captivity and causes serious losses particularly among those held in storage pounds. Breaks in the exoskeleton allow the bacteria to enter and crowding in captivity could predispose H. americanus to infection. A vaccine against gaffkaemia has been developed and found to be effective in field trials (Keith et al., 1992) although there have been reports that it suppresses moulting (Aiken and Waddy, 1995). Gaffkaemia is 100% lethal in European lobsters Homarus gammarus. Outbreaks in Europe are always in association with holding facilities where both species are held simultaneously.
In general, many more pathogens are known to affect H. Americanus than H. gammarus. Since 1997, large parts of the lobster fisheries in the southern range of the H. americanus have been reduced due to a spreading shell disease, ’epizootic shell disease‘, which is not yet fully understood, although chitinolytic bacterial shell disease may be a part of the problem. Symptoms of this disease were possibly found in two of the H. americanus, captured in Norway (van der Meeren, 2008). It has not been found in native lobsters in Europe.

List of Diseases and Disorders

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Natural enemy of

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Natural enemies

Natural enemyTypeLife stagesSpecificityReferencesBiological control inBiological control on
Anguilla rostrata (american eel)Predator
Cancer pagurusPredator
Dyspanopeus sayiPredator
Barshaw and Lavalli (1988)
Gadus morhua (Atlantic cod)Predator
to species  
Tautogolabrus adspersusPredator
Barshaw and Lavalli (1988)

Impact Summary

Native faunaNegative

Impact: Environmental

Some of the previously trapped and exhibited H. americanus in Norway developed symptoms similar to the destructive epizootic shell disease, which has caused major damage to local US lobster fisheries (van der Meeren 2007; Stevens, 2009). In 2010, two infected female H. americanus were trapped in Norwegian waters, and diagnosed with epizootic shell disease (Hauge, 2010a; Karlsbakk et al., 2011; Sandlund et al., 2011). Disease transmission to native species is considered the most threatening factor of this H. americanus introduction.
One berried H. americanus trapped in Norway was berried with embryos that turned out to be H. americanus x H. gammarus (the European lobster; Hauge, 2010b).
Except for these serious, but rare observations, no ecologically negative consequences are found in the field. However, in Europe H. americanus and the European lobster have similar sheltering behaviour and omnivorous diet (Nicosia and Lavalli, 1999) and may therefore compete for shelter and food. Experiments have shown that European lobster females tend to select European lobster males for mating partners, so the possibility for hybridization is regarded as low (van der Meeren et al., 2008) although in some instances it may happen (J Kittaka, Research Institute for Marine Biological Science, Hokkaido, Japan, and JP Mercer, Shellfish Research Laboratory, Galway, Ireland, personal communication, 2008).

Environmental Impact of Culture

Not known. In Europe it is feared that it may have negative impact on the native European lobster, due to the similarities in the ecology between the species, as well as fear for contamination from introduced pathogens and parasites.
Although studies in the 1980s suggested that interspecific hybridisation among clawed lobsters might hold prospects for introducing variability into broodstock, crosses between H. americanus and European lobsters have failed to regularly yield families showing improved traits. According to Talbot and Helluy (1995), European lobster females x H. americanus males may produce fertile eggs if backcrossed with wild stock. When given the choice between American and European males, European females choose the European lobster male (van der Meeren et al., 2008). Hybridisation experiments in Japan showed that the hybrids also possessed increased aggressive behaviour (Kittaka, personal communication). In general, hybrids are now reckoned as a threat to the purebred species, and hybridisation is not encouraged in aquaculture (Nicosia and Lavalli, 1999). No wild hybrids are ever recorded.

Threatened Species

Threatened speciesWhere threatenedMechanismsReferencesNotes
Homarus gammarus (European lobster)
Competition - monopolizing resources
van der Meeren et al. (2010)

Risk and Impact Factors


Has a broad native range
Abundant in its native range
Highly adaptable to different environments
Is a habitat generalist
Tolerant of shade
Capable of securing and ingesting a wide range of food
Highly mobile locally
Long lived
Has high reproductive potential
Has propagules that can remain viable for more than one year

Impact outcomes

Reduced amenity values
Threat to/ loss of endangered species
Threat to/ loss of native species

Impact mechanisms

Competition (unspecified)
Pest and disease transmission
Parasitism (incl. parasitoid)

Likelihood of entry/control

Highly likely to be transported internationally accidentally
Highly likely to be transported internationally deliberately
Highly likely to be transported internationally illegally
Difficult to identify/detect in the field
Difficult/costly to control

Uses List

General > Capital accumulation
General > Research model
General > Sociocultural value
General > Sport (hunting, shooting, fishing, racing)
Human food and beverage > Canned meat
Human food and beverage > Fresh meat
Human food and beverage > Frozen meat
Human food and beverage > Live product for human consumption
Human food and beverage > Meat/fat/offal/blood/bone (whole, cut, fresh, frozen, canned, cured, processed or smoked)
Human food and beverage > Paste
Human food and beverage > Whole


Speciality products include canned lobster paste made from lobster hepatopancreas and/or roe mixed with meat; cooked and frozen lobster in half shell; lobster pate made from lobster paste, flour and spice; minced lobster loaf consisting of lobster body meat packed in bags and frozen; frozen cockltail claws prepared for easy snapping; and tomalley, which is hepatopancreas paste sold as a spread.
Although the best prices are offered for live H. americanus there is increasing emphasis on alternative forms of the product. Larger lobsters, those between 454 g and 2270 g, are sold live, while alternative products are derived from smaller (227-454 g) or weaker specimens not suited for live sales.
Cooked lobster meat is bright white with reddish threads and has a sweet, mild and firm flavour. Its nutritional profile (per 100 g steamed meat) is as follows:
energy 98 cal
protein 20.57 g
fat 0.6 g
chloesterol 72 mg
carbohydrates 1.3 g
minerals 1.6 g
sodium 380 mg
potassium 352 mg
calcium 61 mg
(Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2004).


H. americanus can be found in the sublittoral region down to a depth of 480 m, but is most common between 4 and 50 m. It prefers hard bottom substratum, hard mud, and rocks. A nocturnal creature, H. americanus spends most of the day hiding in burrows and crevices and feeding at night. Although it normally seeks out naturally occurring shelters, it is also able to actively burrow in muddy substrate when these are not available. Territorial in nature, it defends shelters aggressively. As a bottom dweller, it feeds on a variety of fish, crabs, snails, sea urchins, mussels, clams, worms and marine plant material. Cannibalistic behaviour has only been observed in captivity under crowded conditions, and is unlikely in wild habitats. Feeding activity declines in autumn as water temperatures fall, remaining low in winter. Long-distance, off-coast winter migration has been described for parts of the population.
Females moult and mate during the summer. After mating the sperm is held in a special pouch until the eggs are laid. Spawning will take place when the gonads are fully developed, which usually takes one year, but can happen a few weeks up to two years after mating. Fertilized eggs are carried by the female on the underside of the tail for 9-10 months. The eggs are pine green and irregularly shaped when first extruded, becoming spherical and reddish/orange and 1.5-1.7 mm in diameter before hatching. Eggs are cared for until they hatch, with sufficient aeration being provided by fanning the pleopods. Temperature affects the length of time the eggs are carried on the pleopods. The higher the temperature the earlier hatching takes place. All eggs within a brood usually hatch in 2-3 days at 20°C and in 10-14 days at 15°C. A single brood can produce up to 100,000 larvae, dependent of the female’s size and region. The newly hatched larvae are large, compared to crab larvae, and stay planktonic through four larval stages. The larval stages feed on microscopic and small planktonic organisms for approximately one month, dependent on the sea temperature, before metamorphosing into miniature adults. During this fourth larval stage the young lobsters move to the bottom and assume the life of benthic shelter-living dwellers. Females either moult and mate within 1 month after eggs have hatched; but they are also capable of fertilizing at least two successive batches of eggs, spawned on consecutive years, from a single mating. See Lawton and Lavalli (1995) for more details.


The rearing techniques in use in today's (2004) hatcheries are not efficient enough for large-scale commercial aquaculture of lobsters or even for current stocking efforts by various countries today. The review by Nicosia and Lavalli (1999) should help in assessments of culture techniques for Homarus spp. and provide a source of reference for researchers or government agencies wishing to avoid repeating previous mistakes.


Although better results are obtained from wild-caught egg-bearing females, the possession or sale of berried females is prohibited in the USA and Canada. The possibility of rearing broodstock from wild, immature and hatchery-bred lobsters to meet the demands of a putative lobster farm has been widely investigated. Lobsters grown to maturity at 20°C often did not perform well as broodstock, egg production being poor and attachment weak. Males produced fewer sperm and spermatophores. Cyclic temperature regimes are necessary for normal maturation, spawning and egg attachment according to Waddy and Aiken (1991). Methods for conditioning wild pre-ovigerous females with greater reproductive success have since been developed (Aiken and Waddy, 1985). Captive broodstock may be allowed to mate by natural copulation between selected individuals or artificial insemination. Wild broodstock have a reported fecundity of 5000-80000. Incubation may take 4-18 months depending on temperature with losses occurring due to abnormal attachment stalk formation, poor water quality, infestation or inadequate egg aeration by and poor grooming behaviour of the female (Kuris, 1991). The provision of shelters improved the proportion of eggs carried to full term and thereby the number of larvae produced. Although artificial incubation of eggs removed from the female prior to hatching is possible, the risk of disease and consequent loss are unacceptably high. The hatching period lasts 3-5 days and can be collected by passing a current of water from the female's incubation chamber to a separate container.


Rearing containers known as kreisels (40-1000 L) are used to rear the larval stage (at 25-50 larvae/L) which lasts 9-14 days. At densities of 40 larvae/L, survival rates can be as high as 60-70%. The larvae are fed newly hatched Artemia enriched with eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid, and a suspension of algae. Sometimes frozen mysid shrimp, krill, zooplankton, chopped molluscs or prepared feeds are used.


The nursery phase lasts 20-30 days. Juveniles reared communally lead to unacceptable losses due to their cannibalistic behaviour in captive conditions. Stunting may also follow communal rearing which would necessitate regular grading. Grading is difficult and laborious. Individual holding systems are recommended for juveniles to ensure good growth and survival rates as high as 70-80%. Live adult Artemia are fed to juveniles.


This phase lasts 24-30 months and units holding each lobster separately are recommended for rapid growth. The units should be designed to ensure lobsters can be moved, or the containers expanded easily during the culture period. Size at harvest is generally 345-400 g.

Growout Management Table

Growout Management

A limited form of aquaculture called pounding exists in North America in which recently moulted individuals caught in summer and autumn are held in tidal enclosures (pounds) until they can be sold at a higher price during winter and spring. These are fed salted herring and fish processing scraps.

Water Quality

Larval development is temperature-dependent. Lobster larvae are less tolerant to low temperatures than juveniles or adults. Survival of H. americanus larvae is highest at a salinity of 30 ppt while salinities as low as 21 ppt are tolerated. Survival of larvae to stage IV decreases as salinity drops below 21 ppt. No larvae are able to survive at salinities below 17 ppt. At a temperature of 22°C, larvae generally attempt to avoid salinities as low as 21.4 ppt.

Seed Supply and Species Availability

Egg-bearing females are protected in most areas and, if caught must be released. Wild pre-ovigerous females may be caught from the wild for use in broodstock production.

Reproduction and Seed Production Systems

Reproduction Conditions
Reproductive guildExternal - Bearers1 

Natural Food Sources

Food sourceLife stagesContribution to total food intake (%)Details
All Stages
plant material
All Stages
All Stages
sea urchins

Artificial Food Sources

Food sourceLife stagesContribution to total food intake (%)Feeding methodsFeeding frequencyFeeding characteristicsDetails
Artemia (brine shrimp)
   liveadult/mature, nauplii, enriched nauplii
lobster larvae
mysid shrimp (Neomysis. spp.)

Nutrition and Feeding


Lobster culture in North America remains constrained by the lack of commercially available compounded feeds for on-growing lobsters to market size. Significant progress was made in the 1980s with the development of a purified diet, which supported good growth and high survival in H. americanus (Conklin et al., 1983.Further development in feed quality is in progress (Tlusty and Hyland, 2005; Tlusty et al., 2005; Beltz et al., 2007; Thériault and Pernet, 2007).
Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids are extremely important for the survival of both larval and post-larval H. americanus. Extensive bibliographies on crustacean nutrition have been published (Castell and Boston, 1990; Conklin, 1995) which will be of great assistance to those interested in developing artificial diets.


It is a small, but significant amount of divergence that separates H. americanus and the European lobster seen in average genetic identity and average genetic distance (Jørstad et al., 2007b). These differences are used in DNA analyses to make certain species identifications.


Canada and the USA dominate H. americanus production and together produce about 75,000 mt/year. The USA is the largest market for H. americanus and consumes much of what it produces. 90% of USA landings come from Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. Canada exports most of its landings including around 16,000 mt/year to the US, and some to Asia and Europe (Wickins and Lee, 2002). According to Renard (1999), one Canadian exporter sends 40-50% to Asia, 25-30% to the USA and 25-30% to Europe. In Europe, France is the main importer of H. americanus, followed by Italy and Spain. Demand in Europe is particularly high around Christmas and the New Year.

Economic and Socioeconomic Aspects

Production, Economic and Socioeconomic Aspects

According to Wickins and Lee (2002), one of the main marketing problems facing the putative lobster farmer is the fact that lobster markets are geared to receiving animals of the sizes supplied from wild fisheries, while the culture of lobsters to these sizes may not be economically viable. Markets and fisheries generally deal with live specimens at least 350-500 g; lobster farms for H. americanus (or for H. gammarus), may have to grow lobsters to only half this size if they are to have a chance of making profits. It may therefore be necessary to create a new market for small-sized lobsters; considerable market research would be necessary to ascertain the acceptability of such a product (Wickins and Lee, 2002).
In 1992, more than 57 million pounds [approximately 26 million kg] of lobsters were landed in the US while Canadian provinces landed 94 million pounds [approximately 43 million kg]. Total catch reported for H. americanus by the FAO for 1999 was 82,764 t, the countries with the largest catches being Canada (43,087 t) and the USA (39,674 t).


Future Prospects

H. americanus is a highly desirable food commodity capable of commanding a high market price. Major fisheries exist off the coasts of Maine, USA and Canada, and have since the mid-1990s produced record-high landings. Baited traps (pots) are the main method of capture.
Commercial farming of this species is feasible, but the efficiency, predictability in terms of survival rates and the cost of farming must be greatly reduced to make it a more economically viable venture. Due to the strong fisheries results, interest in intensive rearing is put in context with stock enhancement of naturally low-productive regions, to enhance the local fishery.
H. americanus is a possible invasive species, due to the valuable market of live lobsters. Efforts to avoid this are being discussed in North European countries.

Links to Websites

GISD/IASPMR: Invasive Alien Species Pathway Management Resource and DAISIE European Invasive Alien Species Gateway source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Global register of Introduced and Invasive species (GRIIS) source for updated system data added to species habitat list.
Institute of Marine Research 


Institute of Marine Research (IMR)Sykehusveien 23. P.O.Box 6404. V-9294 TromsoNorway


Agnalt A-L, van der Meeren GI, Jørstad KE, Næss H, Farestveit E, Nøstvold E, Svasand T, Korsaen E, Ydstebø L, 1999. Stock enhancement of European lobster (Homarus gammarus); a large-scale experiment off southwestern Norway (Kvitsøy). In: Stock Enhancement and Sea Ranching; Fishing News Books [ed. by Howell, B. \Moksness, E. \Svasand, T.]. Oxford, UK: Blackwell Science Ltd, 401-419.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, 2004. Atlantic lobster Fact sheet. Online at Accessed 14 September 2004.
Aiken DE, Waddy SL, 1985. Production of seed stock for lobster culture. Aquaculture, 44(2):103-114.
Aiken DE, Waddy SL, 1995. Aquaculture. In: Factor JR, ed. Biology of the Lobster Homarus americanus. New York, USA: Academic Press, 153-175.
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