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Edible shellfish list

Updated April 17, 2017

Shellfish describes a group of seafood consisting of molluscs and crustaceans. All shellfish are invertebrates and can be caught in both a marine environment and in freshwater rivers and lakes. Shellfish has always been a dietary mainstay in the UK, particularly in coastal regions, and seafood remains popular today.

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Lobsters are crustaceans with stalked eyes and a long abdomen found along coastlines around the world. There are around 34 different types of edible lobsters, including various spiny, slipper and squat lobsters that do not have claws.


Crabs are crustaceans with a broad, flattened body, short antennae, four pairs of legs, and a pair of pincers or claws. Crabs are located in coastal regions and in freshwater, and there are 37 different kinds of edible crabs. Common crabs include the king crab and Dungeness crab.


Prawns are crustaceans, but differ physically because their second abdominal flap overlaps the first and third. Prawns can be found in saltwater and freshwater all over the world. The most common are pink, royal red, brine, and rock as well as tiger and freshwater prawns. Krill, a related crustacean, is also an edible seafood species and is usually used in oil production for medicinal purposes.


Crayfish are crustaceans related to marine lobsters. Most crayfish in the UK are caught in freshwater rivers and lakes.

Oysters, mussels and clams

You can tuck into 120 different kinds of oysters, mussels, clams and scallops, as well as cockles. They all belong to the mollusc family, categorised by soft unsegmented bodies usually, but not always, protected by hard shells.

Octopus and squid

Even though they do not have obvious shells, octopus and squid are also regarded as shellfish. They belong to the family of molluscs sharing biological features, including mantles, tongues and the foot, a muscle helping them move or operate. More than 20 varieties of squid, octopus and cuttlefish are available for consumption.

Snails and barnacles

Sea snails and barnacles also belong to the family of molluscs and are considered shellfish. More than 20 different edible species are on the menu. Among the popular edible sea snails and barnacles are abalones, goose barnacles, whelks, periwinkles and limpets.

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About the Author

Petra Turnbull

Based in the U.K., Petra Turnbull has been working as a journalist since 1989. Her articles on the film and book trades have been published in "Screen International," "Dagens Naringsliv," "Film Magasinet" and other Scandinavian newspapers and magazines. She now manages her own book shop. Turnbull holds degrees in law and economics from Goethe University, Germany and Oslo Business School in Norway.

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