Maybe you’re going on a fishing trip far away from home? Perhaps you’re looking to send a gift to a friend or relative? Regardless of what the case may be, you need an answer to the question: how is seafood shipped?

Fortunately, you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’re going to discuss the proper shipment of seafood, ensuring that your catch gets from point A to point B in pristine condition. Let’s begin!

Materials Needed for Shipping Seafood

First, you need to make sure that you have the proper packaging materials in your possession. The materials you’ll need include the following. 

Seafood Shipping Boxes

open cardboard box

First and foremost, you need to get your hands on some seafood shipping boxes. These are available online from a number of retailers. Just type “seafood shipping boxes” into Google or Bing, and you’ll be met with tons of options. 

What’s special about a seafood shipping box? It’s actually two boxes in one, one of which is an insulative foam box, and the other of which is a corrugated cardboard box. Together, these two boxes work to keep seafood cool for the duration of its time in transit. 

Ice Packs 

Whether you’re shipping live or frozen seafood, you’re going to need to invest in some ice packs. Ideally, you’ll choose the ones with the gel centers, as they tend to retain their cold the longest. 

If you really want to ensure that the seafood remains frozen for the duration of its time in transit, you can supplement ice packs with frozen or dry ice. However, if you do so, you need to make sure that the ice is not coming into contact with the seafood itself. Instead, you should create a barrier with ice packs, ensuring that the dry and/or frozen ice is sitting on top of or underneath them. 

And it’s important to know that, if you’re shipping live seafood, you should avoid the use of dry and/or frozen ice entirely. Why? Because it could prove to be too cold for the seafood in question, causing it to die during transit. When it comes to live seafood, you should use icepacks only, keeping them on the exterior of the foam storage container.

Storage Bags

Regardless of whether you’re shipping live or frozen seafood, you’re going to need to get your hands on some storage bags. Whereas live seafood will need to be kept in tie-able plastic bags, frozen seafood is best stored in vacuum-sealed bags. Note, though, that it’s still possible to ship frozen seafood in tie-able bags as well.

Filler Material

In all likelihood, you’ll have some open space left within the inside of your foam shipping container. As such, to keep your seafood from shifting around violently during transit, you’ll need to add some filler material as well. This can be anything from styrofoam packing peanuts to crinkled paper to bubble wrap and otherwise. Whatever use you, just make sure that it can withstand water, as there’s a chance that the ice packs could cause condensation to seep through the foam container.

Packaging Tape 

Like any package that you ship across the country, your sea-food containing package will need to be properly secured. As such, you’re going to need to invest in some packaging tape. This will cost you somewhere between $5 and $10 a roll. 

A Marker

Last, but certainly not least, you’ll need a marker. Why a marker? So that you can properly label the box, ensuring that it’s handled with as much care as is humanly possible. 

How is Seafood Shipped? (By Type)

You’ve gathered your materials. Now it’s time to begin the packaging process. This process will vary slightly depending on whether you’re shipping live or frozen seafood. That said, the processes are fairly similar. We’ll detail them both below. 

Shipping Live Seafood

Live lobster

The first step to shipping live seafood is to prepare the storage bags. Grab one and fill it about half full with the appropriate type of water (ie. saltwater for saltwater seafood or freshwater for freshwater seafood). Once you’ve done that, grab your seafood and place it into the bag. Adding the seafood should cause the water to rise to an adequate level. If there’s still plenty of room left in the bag, add more water. Finally, tie the bag tightly so that there’s no chance of the water seeping out. 

Next, place the bag into a foam storage container, surrounding it with filler materials so that it can’t shift around. Packing peanuts are ideal, though any filler material will do. Once the foam container has been packed snugly, place its lid on, and secure it with packaging tape.

Then, you’re going to want to prepare your cardboard shipping box. To do this, add ice packs to the inside of its bottom surface. Then, place the foam container into the cardboard box so that it’s sitting on top of these ice packs. Once there, add additional ice packs to its sides and to its top. It should be entirely encased in ice packs, with the cardboard box acting as an enclosure.

Now, all that’s left to do is to secure and label the cardboard box. Grab your packaging tape and place it over the flaps of the box, ensuring that they’re held together as tightly as possible. If necessary, layer each strip of tape for max security. Then, finally, take your marker and write something to the effect of “LIVE SEAFOOD” or “LIVE FISH” on the side of the box.

That’s it. Your seafood has now been packaged and is ready for shipment. The final step is to find a proper shipping company, a few of which we’ll review below.

Shipping Frozen Seafood 

frozen crabs

Shipping frozen seafood isn’t a whole lot different from shipping live seafood. That said, there are a few differences. First of all, frozen seafood benefits more from vacuum-sealed bags than it does from loose plastic. Vacuum sealing your seafood will preserve its freshness as much as possible, ensuring that it doesn’t go bad during transit. 

So, begin by placing your frozen seafood in a sealable plastic bag. Then, attach the bag to a vacuum sealer and use it to remove as much air as possible. Once you’ve done that, add the vacuum-sealed bags to the inside of your foam storage containers. Next, instead of adding filler materials, add ice packs so that they’re making contact with the vacuum-sealed bags. Then, to ensure maximum security, tape the top of the foam container closed.

Next, you’re going to prepare your cardboard box. If you’re foregoing the use of dry ice, you can simply add ice packs to the bottom of the box. However, if you are using dry ice, you need to position it between layers of ice packs. So, to break things down: place a layer of ice packs at the bottom of the box; then place a layer of dry ice on top of the ice packs, and then place another layer of ice packs over the layer of dry ice.

Once this is done, place the foam storage container on top of the ice packs/dry ice. Then, use additional ice packs and dry ice to fill in both the sides and top of the cardboard box, ensuring that the dry ice never comes into contact with either the cardboard box or the foam container. Once everything is snugly positioned, you can close up the cardboard box and secure it with packing tape.

This will conclude the packaging of your frozen seafood. All you have to do now is find a shipping company. We’ll review some of these below.

Seafood Shipping Options 

USPS truck on the move

Now that we’ve discussed the specifics of packaging seafood, we’ll get into the details of viable seafood shipping options. The most prominent of these options include the following. 

United States Postal Service

One option is to ship your seafood through the US Postal Service. The USPS allows for the shipment of both frozen and live seafood. 

Note, though, that there are size limitations. Namely, any seafood you ship must be able to fit inside of a shipping container with a combined length and girth of 130 inches or less. It must also weigh in at 70 or fewer pounds. You can learn more about these limitations at this link.

Once you’ve obtained your box, prepare it for your seafood using the above-reviewed instructions. Then, once it’s fully packaged, bring it to your local post office and send it out for delivery. 

Note, due to the nature of what you’re shipping, you’re advised to utilize the USPS’ Priority Mail Express service. This is the USPS’ fastest shipping option, and will essentially ensure that your package is received by the recipient within 2 days. Note, also, that it’s wiser to ship earlier in the workweek than it is to ship at the tail-end of the workweek. Why? Because the USPS doesn’t deliver mail over the weekends and you don’t want your seafood sitting stationary for a prolonged period of time. 


Another option is to ship through UPS or United Parcel Service. UPS allows for the shipment of all types of seafood, whether they be live or frozen. Note, though, that when it comes to the shipment of live seafood, UPS has a few conditions that you must meet. 

For one, all boxes containing live animals must be brand new. You can’t reuse a box to ship seafood through UPS. In addition, you must mark all live-animal-containing boxes with the words “Live Animals” or “Live Seafood” in large block letters (this is recommended regardless of who you ship with). The final condition is that you use next-day delivery and that you don’t ship on a Friday or during a holiday. 

It’s also important to note that UPS has size limits. At most, your package can have a combined length and girth of 165 inches. As long as you meet these conditions, you can just follow the packaging instructions reviewed above.


FedEx differs from UPS and the USPS in that they don’t allow private individuals to ship live seafood to residences. They only allow this for B2B companies. That said, they do allow individuals to ship frozen seafood. So, if you’re planning on freezing before shipping, FedEx is a viable option. 

FedEx has a maximum box size of 108 inches in length, and 165 inches in length and girth combined. This is more than big enough to accommodate most seafood shipments, so it shouldn’t pose much of a problem.

Note, FedEx is fairly particular about how perishables are packaged. Though most of their requirements are covered in the instructions reviewed above, there are some slight differences. For a detailed reference, take advantage of the company’s perishable shipment guide. Like UPS and the USPS, FedEx recommends that seafood is shipped with expedited service.

Alternative Shipment Options

While UPS, FedEx, and the USPS are the most prominent shipping services in the US, they’re far from the only ones available. There are a number of other shipping companies that can help you to ship seafood across the country. For those shipping substantial amounts of seafood, these companies are generally the best option.

To find these companies, go to Google and type in something to the effect of “shipping companies”. This will pull up not only global shipping companies but shipping companies located in your area as well. From there, just search the different options and choose one that you’re comfortable with.

And That’s How to Ship Seafood

And there it is, an answer to the question of “how is seafood shipped?”. As you can see, shipment preparation is highly important. As such, you want to be sure to follow all of these directions to a tee. Do so, and your catch should arrive unscathed. 

Interested in avoiding all of the complications associated with shipping seafood? If so, you might consider buying some seafood from Yankee Trader. We sell a variety of frozen seafood products, all of which we’re capable of shipping directly to your doorstep. Check out our selection of frozen seafood products now!

Ready to order? Buy our products from one of many online retailers!