Products

Spiny Lobster

Panulirus spp., Jasus spp.

Market Name(s): Spiny lobster, rock lobster, often with country of origin (e.g., Australian lobster tail, Caribbean lobster tail

Contact Purchasing
Spiny Lobster
  • Primary Source: Coldwater: Australia, New Zealand, South Africa; Warmwater: Brazil, Bahamas, Honduras, U.S.
  • Season: Varies by country of origin (e.g., Australia: Nov - June, Caribbean: Aug - March)
  • Primary Fishing Method: Trap, some dive

Size Range:

Avg. Size: 1-5 lbs.

Product forms:

FROZEN: Raw tails

Storage & Handling

Warmwater tails are sometimes glazed (up to 20% of tail weight), which can lead to short net weights. Warmwater tails are often glazed to protect during storage; coldwater tails are sold dry, but are usually protected with plastic to prevent drying and freezer burn.

Cooking Suggestions

Broiled and served in the shell with melted butter (or maybe a nice mustard sauce) and lemon wedges — that’s the way Americans have traditionally eaten their lobster tails. But you can be a lot more creative. Try putting them on a grill and serving them with a smoky Chipolte chile dipping sauce. Be sure not to overcook it, though, under a hot broiler or a barbecue, 10 to 12 minutes is usually enough.

Selling Points

  • Spiny lobster offer excellent menu appeal—a dramatic presentation with a touch of the exotic.
  • Spiny lobster tails offer the taste of lobster without the hassles of handling and maintaining live product.
  • Thanks to bigger catches during the winter, prices tend to be at their lowest at the beginning of the year.
  • Often selling for approximately half the price of coldwater spiny lobster, highest-quality warmwater lobster tails are an affordable alternative.

Defects

  • Poor-quality tails will have dull meat and may show signs of yellowing.
  • Gray meat indicates lobster was dead before processing.
  • Grit in the sand vein, which can lead to a strong ammonia taste.
  • Glazing (water injected between the meat and shell before freezing) can lead to short weights
  • Some lobsters are soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate prior to freezing.
  • Unscrupulous sellers can misrepresent species, passing off warmwater varieties for coldwater.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Wide variety of spiny lobster available from all over the world
  • Fast turnover of inventory allows for higher-quality product
  • Both dry and wet packs available
  • Clearly marketed by area of origin, so no confusion between species occurs
  • Source directly from large suppliers, ensuring maximum availability of all sizes

Summary

When most consumers think of lobster tails, they think spiny (or rock) lobster. A big tail, bursting with meat and grilled to perfection, offers both a delicious dish and a delightful touch of the exotic.

“Spiny lobster” and “rock lobster” are interchangeable terms; both refer to some 40 species of clawless lobster found around the world. They generally range from 1 to 5 pounds, but can grow to 15 pounds.

The vast majority of spiny lobster sold in the U.S. is sold as frozen tails, although much of the world harvest is sold live to Asian markets.

Spiny lobster are marketed as either warmwater or coldwater, with the latter getting a premium because of their preferred flavor, texture and reputation for superior processing.

The world harvest of spiny lobster is approximately 70,000 tons; leading producers include Australia, Brazil, the Bahamas, Cuba, Nicaragua and the U.S.

The most important species of warmwater spiny lobster is Panulirus argus, which is found throughout the Caribbean and accounts for just over half of all spiny lobster landings.

The most important species of coldwater spiny lobster are Panulirus. cygnus, also known as Australian spiny lobsterthe Australian spiny lobster, Jasus edwardsii from New Zealand and Jasus lalandii, which comes mostly from South Africa.

Another Australian lobster is the warmwater Eastern Australian rock lobster, Jasus verreauxi, (also called the green lobster). This is a smaller fishery, with landings less than a third the amount landed off Western Australia.

To differentiate between the most common coldwater and warmwater tails (P. cygnus and P. argus, respectively), check their shells. Caribbean warmwater tails are a darker shade of red, with distinct yellow spots and a yellow band across the tail; Aussie tails have much less prominent markings. (Other species, however, can be much harder to differentiate.)

U.S. imports of spiny lobster average 10,000 tons a year. The vast majority consists of frozen tails from Brazil, the Bahamas, Nicaragua, Honduras and Australia. The U.S. also imports approximately 1,000 tons of live spiny lobster a year, primarily from Mexico.

U.S. fishermen land approximately 3,000 to 4,000 tons of spiny lobster a year, with Florida accounting for around 85% of the catch. California, which accounts for the remainder, produces a slightly larger species, Panulirus interruptus.

Spiny lobster tails are sometimes sold under a confusing letter system (A, B, C, etc.) but are best bought and sold strictly by size, with most grades sold in 2- and 4-oz. Increments (e.g., 5-6, 20-24 oz.)