Pink shrimp are marketed fresh or frozen, shelled or unshelled, raw or cooked. They are caught year-round but tend to be most abundant during the winter and spring. These shrimp are tender and mild with sweet-tasting flesh in their tails. Raw pink shrimp should smell like the ocean without any ammonia smell. Pink shrimp landed in northern Florida can be difficult to distinguish from brown and white penaeid shrimp when raw, as they all can look translucent pink to gray in color; Key West pinks are easy to distinguish as they have a bright pink color when raw. Cooked and shelled pink shrimp should be plump.
Pink shrimp is a kind of penaeid shrimp that is fast growing and has a short life span of less than two years. They tend to be fairly resilient to fishing pressure but are very dependent on favorable environmental conditions. The abundance of pink shrimp, which are found in the western Atlantic from Mexico to Maryland, varies greatly due to shrimp populations’ short-lived nature and differing environmental conditions. Severe winters can negatively impact their abundance. Although there was concern in past years about pink shrimp in the Gulf of Mexico and the south Atlantic being overfished, the stock in the south Atlantic has been declared rebuilt and there is now no indication that Gulf of Mexico pink shrimp are overfished.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
Most pink shrimp caught in the U.S. come from Florida’s west coast, and they are mainly caught using bottom trawls, also called otter trawls. Some pink shrimp is also caught with butterfly nets and beam trawls. Bottom trawling is designed for maximum contact with the seafloor, and in this fishery the trawls frequently return to the same areas annually, causing great damage to shallow coastal areas. This trawling also releases nutrients into the water column, diminishing marine grass growth while increasing algal blooms. Overall, the effects of trawling on the habitat are a moderate concern in this fishery.
Bycatch in this shrimp fishery is high and includes finfish, sea turtles, and overfished red snapper. U.S. shrimp trawlers are required to use bycatch reduction devices that allow fish to escape fishing nets. They are also required to use turtle extruder devices (TEDs) that are designed to prevent turtle deaths. However, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service noted that in 2010 and 2011 the number of sea turtles stranded in the Gulf of Mexico spiked, possibly due to interactions with shrimp trawlers. Other species of concern include endangered smalltooth sawfish, endangered Atlantic sturgeon and overfished blacknosed shark.
The pink shrimp fishery falls under the aegis of the Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic Fishery Management Councils, which have put substantial management measures in place to reach conservation and sustainability goals. Measures include permit requirements, closures following severe weather, mesh size restrictions, catch reporting for every trip, bycatch reduction device requirements, and scientific monitoring. The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council issued a 10-year moratorium on issuing commercial shrimp vessel permits in 2005 and capped the number of vessels allowed in federal waters.