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Shrimp – What Are Shrimp?

Shrimp 101


Photo: NOAA


Photo: NOAA

The commercial shrimp fishery is one of the most economically important fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico and the southern Atlantic. The industry is based almost entirely on three shallow-water species of the family Penaeidae: white, brown, and pink shrimp.

The three species of penaeid shrimp comprise more than 99 percent of the landings in the Gulf of Mexico fishery. In recent years, average annual landings of the three species have been approximately 150 million pounds

Since 2002- for the last 10 years - landings have decreased to about 92 million pounds. White shrimp are the second most abundant species (after brown shrimp) with 1998 and 1999 landings of approximately 55 million pounds and 2000 landings of over 70 million pounds. From 2000 to 2005, landings fluctuated from a low around 80 million pounds to a high of 130 million pounds. Overall annual harvest in the South Atlantic is dominated by white and brown shrimp. Annual landings of the three fluctuate because of environmental conditions. According to 2008 figures, about 110 million pounds of white shrimp were landed in U.S. fisheries in 2008, mainly off of Texas and Louisiana.

In General
Shrimp live all over the world in tropical and temperate waters. In America, brown shrimp range from Martha's Vineyard to the Florida Keys and northward into the Gulf to the Sanibel grounds, and reappear near Apalachicola Bay and occur around the Gulf Coast to northwestern Yucatan in Mexico. White shrimp live a little more to the south, beginning in New York. Pink shrimp generally do not live north of Maryland.

Brown and white shrimp tend to live in water less than about 100 feet deep, but can live as deep as 300 feet. Pink shrimp are tidal in nature. Shrimp do not live long. Brown shrimp live no more that 1.5 years while the others live less than one year.

The largest size of any shrimp is about eight inches. Natural predators include: Sheepshead minnows, water boatmen, grass shrimp, killifishes, blue crabs and a wide variety of finfish.

Shrimp is low in saturated fat and is a very good source of protein, selenium, and vitamin B12.

Ninety percent of the shrimp eaten in the United States is imported and most are grown in aquaculture.

Brown shrimp is not currently produced in aquaculture in the United States, but about 8 million pounds of Pacific Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) are grown in U.S. aquaculture each year. About 8 million pounds of Pacific Whiteleg Shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei) are grown in U.S. aquaculture each year. Pink shrimp is not currently produced in aquaculture.

Brown shrimp have a well developed and toothed rostrum (part of the exoskeleton) which extends to the outer edge of the eyes. They have 10 legs that are slender, relatively long and used for walking; and five pairs of swimming legs that are located on the front surface of the abdomen. Brown shrimp are grooved on the back surface of the shell. They usually have a purple to reddish purple band, and green or red pigmentation is common on brown shrimp tails. They are also called brownies, green lake shrimp, red shrimp, redtail shrimp, golden shrimp. native shrimp and summer shrimp

Unlike brown and pink shrimp, white shrimp are not grooved. They can also be distinguished from other species by its much longer antenna, about three times longer than its body length, light gray body color, green coloration on the tail, and the yellow band on part of its abdomen. Other common names for the white shrimp include gray shrimp, lake shrimp, green shrimp, common shrimp, Daytona shrimp, and southern shrimp.

Pink shrimp are grooved on the dorsal surface of the carapace (the part of the exoskeleton which covers the anterior part of the body). Pink shrimp typically have a dark colored spot on each side between the third and fourth abdominal segments. The tail flippers of pink shrimp usually have a dark blue band while the brown shrimp's coloration on the same band is usually more variable, ranging from purple to reddish purple.

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