Gravid adults of the common intertidal barnacle Semibalanus balanoides (L.) brood fully developed larvae until individuals perceive some cue from the environment that triggers synchronous larval release. The prevailing hypothesis has been that phytoplankton blooms trigger release because they provide a food source for nauplius larvae. Through observations and field experiments, we tested the hypothesis that turbidity from any source, not just phytoplankton blooms, can trigger release. We documented five larval release events at three sites in the northeastern United States. Two events coincided with chlorophyll increases, and all five coincided with turbidity increases. In experiments, the larval release response was equivalent when adults were exposed to diatoms or inert synthetic beads, and it was significantly higher than under exposure to filtered seawater. We also tested the hypothesis that turbidity can decrease the risk of cannibalism for newly-released nauplii. Under experimentally manipulated conditions, adults consumed significantly fewer nauplii in a high-turbidity environment. We suggest that reproduction in this species may have evolved to coincide roughly with the local onset of winter/spring phytoplankton blooms, but the timing of larval release may have been fine-tuned further by cannibalism and predation pressures. The potential for turbid conditions to serve as a refuge for planktonic larvae of other marine organisms merits further investigation.