softshell lobster
Credit: Charlie Nutting/Instagram

Diver Catches 'Soft Shell' Lobster: ‘It’s as soft as raw chicken’

Charlie Nutting caught a lobster during a dive that, to his surprise, molted its shell while inside the dive bag.

"There's only one lobster here," said Charlie Nutting, a diver and photographer, about the items on the plate in front of him. At first, it looked like two lobsters, but he explained that one was a lobster and the other was the lobster's shell.

"I grabbed this lobster, put it in my dive bag, and at some point between when I put it in the bag and when I finished my dive, it molted its shell," he said. "So it broke out of its old shell . . . and then basically died. It had to have been within minutes."

Nutting lifted the lobster's claw and squeezed it to show its soft and rubbery consistency. "Look at how soft this is," he said. "It's as soft as a piece of raw chicken. It's incredible." He explained that when a lobster molts its old shell, its new shell will start hardening within minutes and eventually become rock hard.

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In amazement, he pointed out how all of the deformities transferred from the old shell to the new one and how the process of molting repaired some damage. "Even the deformity from this claw passed over into the new claw. So you'll get some deformities like that pass over. But the shell rot that you can kind of see a little bit on the tail looks like the shell rot did not transfer," he said.


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Experts say lobsters can live for decades and even regrow new legs and claws. In general, lobstermen estimate a lobster's age by their weight. They say a lobster will grow one pound every seven years. And they molt their shells every one to two years.

Can he eat the soft shell lobster?

While Nutting called the sight "pretty incredible," he also said that "it's going to be delicious eating." The latter statement confused some folks because you're not supposed to eat a lobster that's been dead for too long.

Experts say that lobsters spoil rapidly after death because they have harmful bacteria that are naturally present in their flesh. So if you don't cook or refrigerate it right away, the bacteria will release toxins that could cause food poisoning.

However, Nutting explained in the comments that he ate it within less than 24 hours of it dying and "lived to tell the tale." He added that most commercial markets won't carry "soft shell" lobster because "a dead lobster is a worthless lobster," but he highly recommends trying it. "if you tell your local lobsterman or seafood plug that you'd love to try a soft shell...they just might hook you up," he said.