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White Shrimp

Litopenaeus setiferus

White shrimp

Also Known As

  • Northern white shrimp
  • Gray shrimp
  • Lake shrimp
  • Green shrimp
  • Common shrimp
  • Daytona shrimp
  • Southern shrimp

U.S. wild-caught white shrimp is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Gear restrictions, such as a weak-link in the tickler chain, are in place to protect bottom habitat from trawl gear.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round, with peaks in the fall.

  • Source

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

  • Taste

    Flavorful and sweet. Large white shrimp don’t develop the slight iodine taste of other large shrimp.

  • Texture

    Slightly more tender than other shrimp, and their shells are somewhat softer and easier to peel.

  • Color

    Raw shrimp meat is translucent pink to gray. When cooked, their shells are pinkish-red and their meat is pearly white with pink and red shadings.

  • Health Benefits

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

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Councils manage the white shrimp fishery.
  • In the South Atlantic, managed under the Shrimp Fishery Management Plan for the South Atlantic Region:
    • Permits are needed to harvest shrimp in federal waters.
    • Fishing trip reports must be submitted for each fishing trip.
    • Observers must be carried aboard vessels if selected, to collect data on catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and fishing gear.
    • Managers set catch levels based on historic harvest amounts and fishing rates, rather than abundance because white shrimp are short-lived and heavily influenced by environmental factors.
    • The white shrimp population can be periodically decimated by severe winter cold in the South Atlantic, especially offshore of Georgia and South Carolina. Fishery closures may be implemented to help protect the remaining adult population so they can spawn.
    • Federal waters close if cold weather reduces the shrimp population by 80 percent or more, or if water temperatures fall below a critical level.
  • In the Gulf of Mexico, managed under the Gulf of Mexico Shrimp Fishery Management Plan:
    • Permits are needed to harvest shrimp in federal waters. Currently no new permits are being issued to prevent an increase in the number of boats participating in the fishery.
    • Electronic logbooks must be installed and selected fishermen must submit trip reports for each fishing trip.
    • Observers must be carried aboard vessels if selected, to collect data on catch, bycatch, fishing effort, and fishing gear.
    • Each year all shrimping in federal waters off Texas is closed from approximately mid-May to mid-July to protect brown shrimp populations.

Harvest

  • Commercial fishery:
    • In 2015, landings of white shrimp totaled more than 95 million pounds and were valued at $178 million.
    • The three species of penaeid shrimp (white, pink, and brown) make up the vast majority of the shrimp harvested in the southeast. This fishery is one of the most valuable fisheries in the southeastern United States.
    • Almost all of the white shrimp harvested in the United States comes from the Gulf of Mexico, mainly from Louisiana and Texas. Landings in the South Atlantic are generally spread evenly among the states.
    • Annual harvests of white shrimp vary considerably from year to year, primarily due to environmental conditions. Harvests are much lower in years following severe winter weather.
    • White shrimp were the first commercially important shrimp species in the United States, dating back to 1709.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Commercial fishermen harvest shrimp with trawls towed near the ocean floor. The nets are wide in the front and taper toward the back.
    • Shrimpers using otter trawl gear in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico are required to use sea turtle excluder devices (TEDs).
    • Some shrimp trawlers must also install bycatch reduction devices behind the TED, to reduce finfish bycatch.
    • Area closures if fishing effort exceeds certain thresholds.
    • 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.
    • Fishermen do not trawl in areas with coral reefs and other known areas of high relief to avoid damage to their nets.
  • Recreational fishery:
    • Under federal management, there is no recognized recreational fishery. Fishing in federal waters requires a permit.
    • Recreational fishermen catch white shrimp seasonally and almost always in state waters. State regulations vary from state to state.

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2016 stock assessment, the white shrimp stock in the South Atlantic is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.
  • According to the 2016 stock assessment, the white shrimp stock in the Gulf of Mexico is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.

Location

  • White shrimp are found from Fire Island, New York, to St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic Coast of Florida. In the Gulf of Mexico, they are found from the Ochlochonee River, Florida, to Campeche, Mexico. 

Habitat

  • White shrimp commonly inhabit estuaries and coastal areas out to about 100 feet offshore.
  • Young shrimp live and grow in nursery areas with muddy ocean bottoms and low to moderate salinity.
  • White shrimp are often found in association with other shrimp species, specifically brown shrimp.

Physical Description

  • 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.
  • Their bodies are light gray, with green coloration on the tail and a yellow band on part of the abdomen.
  • Their carapace is not grooved.
  • Part of their shell is a well-developed, toothed rostrum that extends to or beyond the outer edge of the eyes.
  • They have longer antennae than other shrimp (2.5 to 3 times longer than their body length).

Biology

  • 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 2 years, and are often referred to as an “annual crop.”
  • They are able to reproduce when they reach about 5 ½ inches long.
  • White shrimp spawn when offshore ocean bottom water temperatures increase, generally from May through September in the Carolinas, and from March through September in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Males mate with females and anchor their sperm to the females. Females 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.
  • Shrimp that survive the winter grow rapidly in late winter and early spring before returning to the ocean.
  • 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, and grass shrimp, killifishes, and blue crabs prey on young shrimp.
  • A wide variety of finfish feed heavily on juvenile and adult shrimp.

Last updated: 03/02/2018