NEFSC FishFAQ

Shrimp FAQs

pile of shrimp

As so often happens, common names are used loosely and inconsistently in the shrimp family. The "prawn" of Great Britain and other countries is essentially the same animal as the shrimp of the United States, the only biological difference being that prawns have their second abdominal flap (counting from the head towards the tail) overlapping the first and the third. In this country, the term "shrimp" applies to all crustaceans of the Natantia group, regardless of size. "Crayfish" or "crawfish" are names given to both a common freshwater crustacean and to the saltwater spiny lobster.

Numerous varieties exist, among them brown, white, pink, royal red, brine, and rock shrimp.

Depending on the species, size ranges from about 1/2 inch long on the west coast of the United States, to almost 12 inches elsewhere.

The life cycle varies geographically and by species. Some live as long as 6-1/2 years, others live only a year.

two shrimp

About 500,000.

The annual catch has been running close to 400 million pounds for several years. The Gulf States usually lead in shrimp catches, with Texas and Louisiana the leading States. Alaska has been an important shrimp producer for the past several years. The shrimp fishery has the highest market value of all U.S. fisheries.

Three shrimp species are of primary commercial importance: Pink shrimp from Chesapeake Bay through the Gulf of Mexico and the West Indies to Brazil; white shrimp from Fire Island, New York, to Cape Kennedy, Florida, in the Gulf of Mexico from Pensacola, Florida, to Campeche, Mexico, in Cuba and Jamaica; brown shrimp from Massachusetts down the east coast through the Gulf of Mexico, and the West Indies to Uruguay.


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Taken in part from “Being a bouillabaisse of fascinating facts about fish: the most-asked questions,” NOAA Magazine, April and July of 1973.

Unless otherwise noted all color artwork is © Ray Troll 2002, © Terry Pyles, colorization 2002. These images may not be utilized in whole or in part by any entity other than NMFS without the express permission of NMFS' Office of Constituent Services and the copyright artist, Ray Troll.

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(File Modified Sep. 19 2017)