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North Carolina Department of Environment Quality

NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources
Marine Fisheries - NC Shrimping

Marine Fisheries

Century-Old Industry Still a Staple for North Carolina

By Cheryl Gilgo
Fish Eye News
Archive: July 2009

Swimming around out in the ocean and the inland water bodies are some very tasty little creatures.

Fishermen have harvested these crustaceans since the 1920s and the demand for them still continues. Shrimp are an economic necessity for fishermen, as well as a staple for many dinner tables.

“There are entire communities that evolve around shrimping,” said Scott Crosson, socioeconomic program manager for the N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries. “Whole families participate in catching, unloading and heading shrimp.”

Shrimp is the second largest commercial fishery in North Carolina, bested only by blue crabs in pounds landed and dockside value.

There are primarily three species of shrimp found in North Carolina waters: brown, pink and white shrimp.

Brown shrimp are the most abundant species and are caught mainly in the summer and have a maximum life span of 18 months. They can grow up to 9 inches long and account for 67 percent of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.

White shrimp or green tails are the second most abundant and only found in the fall for harvesting. They can live up to 24 months and grow up to eight inches.  White shrimp bring in 28 percent of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.

Pink shrimp or spotted shrimp, are the least abundant and are harvested in the spring. They have a maximum life span of 24 months and can grow as large as 11 inches. They account for 5 percent of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.

“Unfortunately, within the last 30 years or so, shrimp harvesting has been hit the hardest out of all the commercial industries,” Crosson said.

When adjusted for inflation, the price of shrimp has dropped by more than half since the late 1970s, Crosson said.

Imported shrimp is a big reason why, Crosson said. Shrimp imports have tripled in the past 10 years.

Wild American Shrimp is a national campaign that has been developed to educate and promote the harvesting and selling of non imported or farm raised shrimp.  And for eastern North Carolina there are now two local entities that are a part of a campaign developed by volunteers to promote local seafood through community and business partnerships: Carteret Catch and the newest, Brunswick Catch. Other areas, such as Dare County, are considering similar campaigns as well.

Getting fresh shrimp in season is not too difficult in most areas; fish markets and grocery stores are the most common places. Wholesale fish houses often sell shrimp to the general public, too.

Consumers should look for clear shrimp — if the meat or shells are orange or pink it is not fresh. Shrimp also should not stink. They should smell like salt water.

/fen-07-09

N.C. Division of Marine Fisheries • 3441 Arendell Street • Morehead City, NC 28557 • 252-726-7021 or 800-682-2632

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