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Shellfish of the Atlantic Coast - Maine to Florida

Updated on May 9, 2016

Types of Atlantic Shellfish

North America's Atlantic Coast is home to some of the world's most delicious shellfish. Among the most common Atlantic shellfish are shrimp, lobsters, crabs, oysters, clams, sea scallops, and blue mussels.

Shrimp are found in several Atlantic regions. The most famous are the warm water shrimp, which are harvested from North Carolina to Florida.

Lesser known are coldwater shrimp from New England. Coldwater shrimp are smaller in size than their southern cousins, but are known for their delicate flavor. These delicious shrimp are landed from Gloucester Massachusetts, northward into Canada.

Two species of lobsters are harvested; the American lobster and the spiny or rock lobster. American lobsters are landed from Maine to Virginia, while spiny lobsters come from Florida.

Crabs are also a diverse group of shellfish, with several species being found from New England to Florida. These include Atlantic blue crabs, jonah crabs, and stone crabs.

Shellfish and other seafood enthusiasts in almost every Atlantic state rely on seafood steamers for cooking shellfish. In New England, lobsters or clams are steamed. In the Mid-Atlantic states, steamers are essential for cooking oysters, clams and blue crabs. In the southern states, steamed shrimp, crabs, or other shellfish are common dishes.

An American oyster
An American oyster


Oysters are extremely popular along the Atlantic Seaboard. These delicious shellfish are harvested from wild stocks or farm raised from New England to southward.

Traditionally, oysters were harvested and consumed throughout the United States only in the fall, winter and early spring. Recent innovations have allowed producers to offer oysters year round.

Oysters are typically consumed raw on the half-shell, steamed, roasted or used in traditional oyster recipes such as stews, dressings, casseroles and other dishes.

quahog clams
quahog clams

Atlantic Clams

Atlantic clams include quahogs, soft-shelled clams, surf clams and sea clams (ocean quahogs).

Smaller varieties such as littleneck quahogs and soft-shelled clams are usually served steamed while larger clams are used in chowders or other recipes.

Is it Safe to Eat Raw Shellfish?

Consuming raw shellfish is popular along the Atlantic Coast, with raw oysters and clams being among the most common.

Although raw shellfish are usually harmless, there are risks. Shellfish poisoning can be deadly. Many state health departments or other agencies offer information about risks associated with consuming shellfish.


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