Pacific pink shrimp (aka ocean shrimp), Pandalus jordani, are only found in the North Pacific and are smaller than Pandalus borealis (aka northern shrimp), a species that is widely fished in the North Atlantic, where more than 200,000 metric tons are landed a year. Typically, pink shrimp average more than 250-400 count per pound, compared to 100-250 for the larger Pandalus borealis. Almost all Pacific pink shrimp are cooked and peeled and sold fresh or frozen. Frozen cooked and peeled shrimp are always sold glazed (a 5% glaze is the industry average).While about a dozen species of commercially fished coldwater shrimp belong to the Pandalidae family, larger shrimp are preferable and more expensive.
Pink shrimp are medium-sized and live between three and five years. They are protandric hermaphrodites, beginning life as males and later becoming females. Juveniles mature and breed as males during their first year, and later become and breed as females for the following years. The proportion of shrimp that change sex varies from year to year. High fishing pressures or naturally high mortality rates can induce males to change into females at a younger age, or even completely skip the male stage.
Mating takes place in the fall when females produce up to 3000 eggs, which are internally fertilized. The eggs are extruded to the underside of the female’s abdomen shortly after mating, where they are fertilized by a packet of sperm left by a male, then attached to the female’s specialized legs. The female carries them under her abdomen for about six days before the eggs develop into planktotrophic larvae, which hatch in the spring. They remain as plankton for four to six months, drifting with the currents. Pink shrimp are smaller than most tropical shrimp, growing up to 6.5 inches (16.5 cm) in length. Growth rates vary by region, sex, age, and timing of gender transition – females tend to grow larger than males.
Because they reside primarily in deep water, cold water shrimp do not ingest mud or sand, giving them clearer veins than those of warm water shrimp. They also have a longer rostrum, and claws on one pair of feet instead of three. Their prey consists primarily of smaller planktonic animals, but adults may also feed on marine worms, small crustaceans, sponges, and dead animals. They are prey to many fish species including hake, arrowtooth flounder, sablefish, petrale sole, rockfish, and skates.
Pink shrimp are found along the Pacific coast of North America from southeast Alaska to Baja California, Mexico. They generally occur at depths from 150 to 1200 feet (45 to 366 meters). High densities of pink shrimp occur in well-defined areas, known as beds, over green mud or mud-sand substrates. Spawning occurs throughout their range; however, the majority of commercial quantities occur between Queen Charlotte Sound, British Columbia and Point Arguello, California. Pink shrimp undergo diel vertical migration, inhabiting deeper waters during the day and moving to shallower waters at night to feed.
Science & Management
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife drafted a management plan for Oregon’s pink shrimp trawl fishery. After conducting the study, they formulated a list of research needs including: continued investigation of shrimp population dynamics in relation to fishing and the environment; develop methods to monitor and further reduce non-target catch; and improve their understanding of ecosystem effects of the fishery and develop methods to reduce impacts.
A 2011 study published in Fisheries Oceanography off southern Oregon suggests that poor shrimp recruitment in 2000 and 2002-2004 in that area may be due to a northward shift in weather conditions, leading to strong spring and summer upwelling winds. Upwelling of deep-ocean water provides nutrients to coastal ecosystems, but also results in offshore transport of surface waters and pelagic larvae; such as recently hatched ocean shrimp. This raises the possibility that shrimp recruitment, especially in southern Oregon, may become more variable in the future, underscoring the need to maintain consistent fishery monitoring and sampling.
Pink shrimp are principally managed at the state level along the US West Coast (California, Oregon, Washington) through the state Fish and Wildlife agencies. The state agencies responsible for shrimp fishery management along the US West Coast include: the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. In 1981, the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC) created a draft fisheries management plan for pink shrimp. While the plan has never been formally adopted, California, Oregon, and Washington have several uniform management regulations and formally work together with the PFMC to manage the fishery. Among the uniform measures the state agencies have agreed upon are:
A closed season from November 1st through March 31st to protect egg-bearing females
A maximum count per pound
Implementing the use of bycatch reduction devices (to protect rockfish and eulachon)
Gear restrictions (though specifics vary by state)
Some federal regulations do apply to the pink shrimp trawl fishery along the US West Coast. All observer programs for the pink shrimp fishery are managed federally through the National Marine Fishery Service’s West Coast Groundfish Observer Program. Additionally, the pink shrimp fishery is subject to federal regulations outlined in the West Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan to protect groundfish stocks and essential fish habitat.
The Oregon and Washington (as well as part of California) pink shrimp fisheries are limited entry with the number of available fishing permits varying by state. Recently the number of active fishers has been less than the number of available commercial licenses. Pink shrimp currently account for the majority of the landings and revenue from the US West Coast shrimp fisheries – with the majority of landings occurring in Oregon. Oregon currently carries out stock assessments for pink shrimp while California and Washington do not.
Pink shrimp are managed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) in Canada. The DFO manages the British Columbia commercial shrimp trawl fishery via 36 different Shrimp Management Areas (SMAs). Each SMA is managed and assessed separately by the DFO. While the shrimp fishery is dominated by pink shrimp, other northern shrimp species are caught as part of the multispecies nature of fishery. Each species is assessed separately, but managed under one total allowable catch (TAC) per SMA. If a TAC is exceeded or if stock biomass drops into the critical zone, then that particular SMA is closed to fishing. Among other measures the DFO uses to manage the shrimp fishery include:
A designated fishing season
Limits on the number of vessels that can participate in the fishery
Gear restrictions and bycatch reduction strategies
Pink shrimp are fast-growing coldwater species that tend to be resilient to fishing pressure.
The pink shrimp fishery along the West Coast lacks population abundance estimates, but the population is assumed to be stable and not overfished. Stocks in Newfoundland appear to be healthy.
Habitat impacts (Wild)
The primary gear used to catch pink shrimp are trawls. However, unlike tropical shrimp trawls, the cone-shaped otter trawls employed have been modified so they don’t scrape the seafloor. Pink shrimp live in muddy habitats, which also lessens the gear impact. A very small number of pink shrimp fishermen use traps and pots.
Bycatch in this fishery is very low, consisting mostly of smelt, flatfish, and rockfish. Bycatch reduction devices are mandatory and a Nordmore grate, which fits into the trawl, has greatly reduced Pacific rockfish bycatch.
Each state on the West Coast has its own regulations concerning pink shrimp. Although there are substantial management measures in place, there is inadequate stock monitoring. An individual fishing quota system for the Pacific Coast groundfish trawl fishery was finalized in January 2011. However, pink shrimpers expressed concern that the quotas would force additional trawlers into their fishery, which lacks the processing infrastructure to handle an increased fleet size.