White Shrimp

White Shrimp

Litopenaeus setiferus


    Northern White Shrimp, Gray Shrimp, Lake Shrimp, Green Shrimp, Common Shrimp, Daytona Shrimp, Southern Shrimp


    U.S. wild-caught from North Carolina to Texas



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White Shrimp

White shrimp.


White shrimp is one of the three species of penaeid shrimp (warm-water shrimp) harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. White shrimp were the first commercially important shrimp species in the United States – white shrimp fishing dates back to 1709. Today, the fishery for brown, pink, and white shrimp is one of the most valuable fisheries in the southeastern United States. Nearly 90 percent of the white shrimp harvested in the U.S. from 2003-2012 came from the Gulf of Mexico, mainly from Louisiana and Texas. Prized for their sweet, tender meat and easy-to-peel shells, white shrimp are caught year-round, with peaks in the fall.

Although our shrimp fisheries are among the largest and highest valued fisheries in the United States, farm-raised imports make up the majority of our shrimp supply (1.1 billion pounds in 2013, valued at $5.3 billion). In fact, shrimp imports make up nearly 30 percent of all seafood we import (in value). We mainly import shrimp from Southeast Asian countries, followed by Ecuador, India, and Mexico.

Looking Ahead

Most fish and shellfish species are managed based on abundance. Since white shrimp are short-lived and heavily influenced by environmental factors, abundance is not a major consideration. Managers instead consider historic harvest amounts and fishing rates to set appropriate catch levels. For example, the overfished level for South Atlantic pink shrimp is based on historical catch per unit effort from surveys. Managers are developing new definitions of overfishing and overfished for Gulf of Mexico pink, white, and brown shrimp to help track the status of these stocks better through Amendment 15 to the Fishery Management Plan for the Shrimp Fishery of the Gulf of Mexico.



White shrimp are found in the western north Atlantic from Fire Island, New York, to St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and in the Gulf of Mexico from the Ochlochonee River on the Gulf Coast of Florida to Campeche, Mexico. Young shrimp live and grow in nursery areas with muddy bottoms and low to moderate salinity. White shrimp commonly live in estuaries and coastal areas out to about 100 feet offshore. White shrimp are often found in association with other shrimp species, specifically brown shrimp, Farfantepenaeus aztecus.



White shrimp grow fairly fast, depending on factors such as water temperature and salinity, and can reach up to 7 or 8 inches in length. They have a short life span, usually less than two years. White shrimp are able to reproduce when they reach about 5 ½ inches long. White shrimp spawn when offshore bottom water temperatures increase, generally from May through September in the Carolinas, and from March through September further south in the Gulf of Mexico. Males mate with females and anchor their sperm to the females. Females typically release about 500,000 to 1 million eggs near the ocean floor, and the eggs are fertilized as they are released. Newly hatched shrimp travel to their estuarine nursery habitats in April and early May. They return to the ocean as adults within a few months.

White shrimp larvae feed on plankton (tiny floating plants and animals). Juvenile and adult shrimp are omnivorous and feed on the bottom on detritus, plants, microorganisms, macroinvertebrates, and small fish. Cannibalism is also common among adult white shrimp. Sheepshead minnows, water boatmen, and insect larvae eat postlarval shrimp; grass shrimp, killifishes, and blue crabs prey on young shrimp; and a wide variety of finfish feed heavily on juvenile and adult shrimp.



White shrimp are crustaceans with 10 slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front surface of the abdomen. Unlike brown and pink shrimp, the back surface of the shell of white shrimp is not grooved. Part of their shell is a well-developed, toothed rostrum that extends to or beyond the outer edge of the eyes. White shrimp can also be distinguished from other species by their much longer antenna (2.5 to 3 times longer than their body length), light gray body color, green coloration on the tail, and the yellow band on part of the abdomen.



White shrimp are essentially an “annual crop” – most do not survive longer than 2 years. Although scientists monitor shrimp abundance to ensure the stock is healthy, abundance is not a major consideration for fishery managers as with other seafood species. Instead, managers consider historic harvest amounts and fishing rates in developing a management strategy for the fishery. They also look at the amount of surviving parents and environmental conditions, such as weather and water temperatures. As long as environmental conditions are favorable, shrimp are very productive and can rebound from low abundance one year to high abundance the next.



Based on the latest stock assessments, the South Atlantic (2014) and Gulf of Mexico (2011) stocks are not overfished nor subject to overfishing.


Harvesting white shrimp

Commercial fishermen harvest shrimp with trawls. Shrimp trawlers tow nets through the water near the ocean floor. The nets are wide in the front and taper toward the back, where the captured shrimp and any incidentally caught species are concentrated.

Trawl vessels fishing for shrimp must comply with federal sea turtle conservation requirements, including the use of turtle excluder devices (TEDs) when fishing with certain types of gear. A TED is a sorting grid that is sewn into a trawl net to allow shrimp to pass through to the back of the net, but prevents larger animals, such as turtles and sharks, from passing through by allowing them to escape through flaps above or below the TED. When properly installed and maintained, TEDs effectively reduce sea turtle deaths. Since 2010, NOAA’s Sea Turtle Stranding and Salvage Network (STSSN) has documented a spike in the number of sea turtle strandings in the Gulf of Mexico each spring, and analyses suggest many turtles died because of fisheries bycatch. Managers, enforcement officers, and the shrimp industry are working to ensure proper compliance with TED requirements to reduce sea turtle bycatch in the southeastern shrimp fishery.

Shrimp trawlers fishing with certain types of gear must also use bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) to reduce finfish bycatch. BRDs are installed behind the TED, and enable some finfish to escape the trawl. Scientists monitor shrimp fishing effort as a proxy for the amount of finfish bycatch. If shrimp effort exceeds certain thresholds, managers can close some areas to shrimp trawling at certain times to control finfish bycatch.

To prevent habitat impacts, trawlers in the Gulf of Mexico must have a “weak-link” in the tickler chain, which hangs in front of the net and drags along the ocean floor to stir up shrimp from the bottom into the net. This “weak-link” allows the tickler chain to drop away if it gets hung up on natural bottom structures.



Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils manage shrimp fisheries in offshore federal waters. State resource management agencies are responsible for inshore state waters.

Current management:

South Atlantic: Shrimp Fishery Management Plan

  • Fishermen must have a permit to harvest shrimp in federal waters of the South Atlantic. They must submit reports on catch and fishing effort for each fishing trip and carry a fishery observer if selected. Observers collect data on the catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and fishing gear. Information collected through reports and observers helps scientists and managers better monitor and manage the fishery.
  • Although not overfished, the white shrimp resource in the South Atlantic region is periodically decimated by severe winter cold kills, especially offshore of Georgia and South Carolina. Following these events, continued fishing on the few remaining adults in the spring can reduce the more valuable fall shrimp production. If severe cold weather reduces the white shrimp population by 80 percent or more, or if a South Atlantic state can demonstrate the water temperature has fallen below 48°F for seven consecutive days, then North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida can request a fishery closure for white shrimp in federal waters adjacent to closed state waters. These fishery closures help protect the remaining adult population so they can spawn.

Gulf of Mexico: Shrimp Fishery Management Plan

  • Fishermen must have a permit to harvest shrimp in federal waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Currently no new permits are being issued to prevent an increase in the number of boats participating in the fishery and help it operate more profitably and efficiently.
  • Fishermen must submit reports on catch and fishing effort for each fishing trip. They must install an electronic logbook and carry a fishery observer if selected. Observers collect data on the catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and fishing gear. Information collected through reports and observers helps scientists and managers better monitor and manage the fishery.
  • In cooperation with Texas, NOAA Fisheries annually closes federal waters to shrimp fishing off Texas from approximately mid-May to mid-July to allow brown shrimp to grow to a larger and more valuable size before they’re harvested, and to prevent waste of brown shrimp that might otherwise be discarded due to their small size. This annual closure ranges from 45 to 90 days and is based on biological sampling conducted by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. NOAA Fisheries opens federal waters when Texas opens its state waters.

Annual Harvest

The three species of penaeid shrimp (white, pink, and brown) made up approximately 97 percent of the shrimp harvested in the Gulf of Mexico from 2003-2012. White and brown shrimp dominate the annual shrimp harvests in the South Atlantic.

Nearly 90 percent of the white shrimp harvested in the U.S. from 2003 to 2012 came from the Gulf of Mexico, mainly from Louisiana and Texas. The 2012 commercial white shrimp harvest totaled 118 million pounds, with 71 million from Louisiana and 25 million from Texas.

Annual harvests of penaeid shrimp vary considerably from year to year, primarily due to environmental conditions. For example, white shrimp harvests are much lower in years following severe winter weather. Fishing effort and market prices also influence annual harvests.



The commercial shrimp fishery is one of the most economically important fisheries in the southeast. The 2012 commercial harvest of white shrimp was worth more than $234 million.



Recreational fishermen catch white shrimp seasonally and almost always in state waters. Under federal management, there is no recognized recreational fishery. Fishing in federal waters requires a permit. State regulations vary from state to state.



White shrimp are one of the three species of penaeid shrimp (warm-water shrimp) commonly harvested in the southeast. Penaeid shrimp are generally flavorful and sweet, but vary slightly in taste according to the species. White shrimp are sweet and slightly more tender, and their shells are somewhat softer and easier to peel than other shrimp. Large white shrimp don’t develop the slight iodine taste of other large shrimp. Brown shrimp are firm and sometimes have a slight iodine taste, and pink shrimp are tender and sweet. It can be hard to tell these shrimp apart, partly because all raw shrimp meat is translucent pink to gray in color. When cooked, their shells are pinkish-red and their meat is pearly white with pink and red shadings.



Year-round, with peaks in the fall.



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

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 106
Protein 20.31 g
Fat, total 1.73 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 0.328 g
Carbohydrate 0.91 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 152 mg
Selenium 38 mcg
Sodium 148 mg

White Shrimp Table of Nutrition