North Carolina has three main types of shrimp: brown, pink and white. Shrimp are estuarine dependent — that means they live in marshes and estuaries when they are very young because it’s safe and there is plenty of food. They grow very quickly, doubling in size every few weeks. When shrimp are almost full-grown, they swim out of the estuaries into the ocean.
Shrimp are considered an annual crop because they do not live very long — only about two years. The amount of shrimp we have from year to year varies, depending on the weather. If we have a very cold winter, then we will have a small shrimp population the following spring. If we have lots of rain, then the shrimp will move out into the ocean before they are fully grown.
Shrimp are the second most economically important fishery in North Carolina. In 2004, Tar Heel fishermen caught 4.9 million pounds of shrimp, worth $9 million. Most of these shrimp were caught with trawl nets in our sounds and rivers.
Brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) are North Carolina’s most abundant shrimp species and support a major commercial fishery along our central and southern coastline. Brown shrimp are spawned in the ocean and carried by tides and wind-driven currents into our estuaries in late winter and early spring.
Most brown shrimp are caught in the summer and have a maximum life span of 18 months. They can grow as large as nine inches. Brown shrimp account for 67% of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.
White shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus), or green tails, are the second-most abundant species in North Carolina. White shrimp are spawned in the ocean from March to November and are carried by tides and wind-driven currents into our estuaries.
White shrimp are harvested primarily in the fall. These shrimp have a maximum life span of 24 months and they can grow as large as eight inches. White shrimp account for 28% of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.
Pink shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum), or spotted shrimp, are spawned in the ocean April through July and carried by tides and wind-driven currents into our estuaries where they overwinter.
Pink shrimp are harvested in the spring and the fall and have a maximum life span of 24 months. They can grow as large as 11 inches. Pink shrimp account for 5% of North Carolina’s shrimp landings.