“I have fished the South Atlantic and the Gulf of Mexico for over 20 years,” said Jeremy Zirlott, owner of Zirlott Trawlers, Inc. in a recent interview.” There are differences in the East Coast shrimp compared to Gulf shrimp, although they are minimal. Each species is very different and takes different trawling techniques and different trawling gear.” He should know, after all, his homeport is Bayou La Batre, AL, a town made famous for shrimping by the movie “Forest Gump.”
According to Zirlott, the four primary species of shrimp harvested in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico are white shrimp (Penaeus setiferus), brown shrimp (Penaeus Aztecus), rock shrimp (Sicyonia brevirostris) and royal reds (Pleoticus Robustus). The brackish water near estuaries attract white shrimp which are harvested from Mobile Bay, AL to Aransas, TX. Because of the large volume of fresh water coming from the Mississippi river, white shrimp tend to move into the deeper water where salinity levels remain relatively low even at greater depths. White shrimp caught in the gulf have a greater yield after they are headed than those caught along the east coast, according to Zirlott. Brown shrimp are harvested from Pensacola, FL to Brownsville, TX, and the catches are more abundant in the gulf than along the east coast.
South Atlantic Shrimp
More rock shrimp are harvested in the South Atlantic in the shallow waters off the east coast of Florida and Georgia, according to Zirlott. Rock shrimp are relatively small with hard shells similar to lobsters. Although some rock shrimp are harvested in the gulf, they are more often found nearer the coast of Florida than areas west. According to the Food and Water Watch website, royal red shrimp are a deep-water species harvested 40 to 60 miles off-shore. They can be found in the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic from Cape Cod to French Guiana and are abundant along the coast of Florida. Although brown shrimp are harvested along the east coast, their migration habits are more scattered and less predictable in the colder Atlantic waters making harvesting them less cost effective. White shrimp in the Atlantic can be caught closer inland, too. Another species of shrimp common along the Florida coast and the South Atlantic is pink shrimp (F. duorarum).
North Atlantic Shrimp
Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) and Ocean Shrimp (P. jordani) are both cold water shrimp species, and both are often referred to as pink shrimp although they are much different than the pink species harvested further south. These cold water varieties can be found in both the northern Pacific and northern Atlantic waters. They are wild-caught shrimp, but the harvesting techniques are different than those used in more southern waters. Cold water shrimp differ greatly from their warm-water cousins. They are generally smaller and have shorter life spans, about one year compared to three or four years for warm water species. Cold water shrimp do not burrow in the mud, so their veins are clear and lack the muddy appearance found in warm water shrimp.
U.S. Wild Caught Shrimp
Americans eat over 1 billion pounds of shrimp each year. Unfortunately, over 90% of the shrimp consumed in the U. S. are not produced in the United States. Shrimp imported from South America and Asia is more likely to contain high levels of contaminants such as mercury and antibiotics, and there is less regulation of fishing practices in other countries, therefore more environmental damage caused by unethical harvesting practices. Atlantic and Gulf shrimp harvests provide consumers with high-quality seafood, and provide economic resources for entire communities of seafood workers and their families.
You can see more of Zirlott’s interview at GulfCoastInspired.com — Shrimping Both Sides.
Zirlott Trawlers, Inc.: Interiew with Owner — Jeremy Zirlott
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico: Northern Pink Shrimp
Food Reference: Shrimp
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission: Brown Shrimp
South Atlantic Fishery Management Council: Rock Shrimp
Food and Water Watch: National Smart Seafood Guide