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Shrimp, White (Litopenaeus setiferus)
Also known as: Big Charlies, Fall shrimp, Lake shrimp, Whites, Whities
Source: Wild-caught in Gulf state waters from West Florida to Texas

White shrimp are found off the Atlantic Coast as far north as Fire Island, New York, to St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and from the Ochlocknee River on the Gulf Coast of Florida to Campeche, Mexico. In the Gulf, there are two centers of abundance: one along the Louisiana-upper Texas coast and one in the Campeche area of Mexico. Young white shrimp inhabit estuaries with muddy bottoms and low to moderate salinity from early summer to fall. They move offshore to spawn in the fall, as they grow large enough and cooling temperatures trigger their migration. In general, white shrimp prefer shallow water, typically less than 90 feet deep but up to 270 feet deep.

White shrimp grow fast, mature in their first year of life, and reproduce quickly and abundantly. They have a short lifespan; most shrimp die after they spawn and do not survive longer than a year, essentially making them an “annual crop.” These unique biological characteristics make them more resilient to fishing pressure.

White shrimp spawn, or release fertilized eggs, in offshore waters when water temperatures rise, generally from April through September. With the help of tides and currents, newly hatched shrimp larvae move inshore to estuarine nursery habitats starting in early summer. These coastal wetlands and bays provide a source of food and protective habitat so shrimp can grow. When they’re large enough to move offshore or when water temperatures begin to cool, white shrimp migrate back to the ocean to spawn and complete their life cycle. (Some stay in the estuaries through the winter and migrate offshore to complete their life cycle in the spring.)

White shrimp are an important part of estuarine and offshore food webs. As larvae, white shrimp feed on plankton (tiny plants and animals). Juvenile and adult shrimp are omnivorous and feed on the bottom on detritus, plants, microorganisms, invertebrates, and small fish. Cannibalism is also common among adult white shrimp. Juvenile fish and some invertebrates eat post-larval and juvenile shrimp, and a wide variety of finfish feed heavily on adult shrimp.

White shrimp are crustaceans with 10 walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front of their abdomen. Unlike brown and pink shrimp, white shrimp do not have grooves on their head or tail. They have much longer antennae than other shrimp species (2.5 to three times longer than their body length). White shrimp have a light grey body, green coloration on the tail, and a yellow band on part of the abdomen.

The Gulf’s thousands of square miles of estuaries provide important nursery habitat for white shrimp, supporting an abundant resource and a valuable fishery. White shrimp is one of two main species of shrimp harvested in the Gulf. Annual harvests of white shrimp account for about half of the total Gulf shrimp production. Commercial fishermen typically harvest white shrimp in nearshore waters up to 120 feet deep. In 2013, they landed more than 87 million pounds of white shrimp, primarily in Louisiana and Texas, with landings revenue of about $231 million.

White shrimp migrate between coastal estuaries and offshore waters during their life cycle and are harvested in both areas. Through this migration, they cross boundaries between state and federal waters; as a result, both state management agencies and federal authorities (NOAA Fisheries and the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council) are responsible for managing shrimp fisheries. White shrimp’s biological characteristics make them fairly resilient to fishing pressure—in general, management focuses on maximizing the volume and value of shrimp harvests in addition to reducing the impact of the shrimp fishery on other species, such as finfish and sea turtles, and bottom habitats.

Methods Seasons Landings
Commercial Recreational

About 92% of the white shrimp harvested in the United States comes from the Gulf, mainly landed in Texas and Louisiana. In 2013, commercial fishermen brought in over 87 million pounds of Gulf white shrimp with revenues of $231 million. Nearly 22 million pounds came from Texas (with revenues of $77 million) and 57 million pounds from Louisiana (with revenues of $127 million). Environmental conditions, as well as fishing effort and market prices, can influence annual harvests of white shrimp from year to year.

Source: NOAA Fisheries Annual Commercial Landings Statistics

Landings Summary Data :  

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Overview Current Abundance Additional Reasearch

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries use abundance data from joint federal and state groundfish surveys, along with data from state-run surveys and commercial catch data, to assess the status of the white shrimp stock throughout the Gulf.

Shrimp harvests are monitored through state-run trip ticket programs—docks purchasing shrimp directly from commercial fishermen submit information about their catch, for example, what it is, where and how it was caught, shrimp sizes, and quantities. Commercial fishermen who sell their catch directly to consumers are also required to complete and submit trip tickets with this information.

Current Abundance

The most recent white shrimp stock assessment (2012) showed that shrimp spawning biomass and recruitment have increased in recent years, while fishing mortality has decreased. This assessment also concluded that that the Gulf white shrimp stock is abundant (not overfished) and is fished at an appropriate rate (no overfishing).

Although scientists monitor shrimp abundance to ensure the stock is healthy, it’s not as an important consideration for fishery managers as with other seafood species. Since shrimp are essentially an “annual crop” (most shrimp seldom live longer than one year), it’s more useful for managers to review historic harvests and fishing rates, the amount of surviving parents, and environmental conditions, such as weather and water temperatures, in developing a management strategy for the fishery. As long as environmental conditions are favorable, shrimp are highly productive and can rebound from low abundance one year to high abundance the next.

Additional Research

NOAA Southeast Fisheries Science Center Shrimp Research

The Gulf and South Atlantic Fisheries Foundation is currently working with the shrimp industry to assess new bycatch reduction devices for the shrimp trawl fishery. This work should provide additional gear configurations that more efficiently catch shrimp and more effectively reduce catch of non-target species.

Who's Responsible Management Program
Who's Responsible

Commercial fishermen harvest white shrimp from state waters (within the jurisdiction of individual states) and from offshore federal waters of the Gulf.

Each Gulf state is responsible for managing the white shrimp fishery in their state waters. The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission helps coordinate management of interjurisdictional fisheries like white shrimp, gathering scientific data and organizing management strategies across the Gulf States.

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries are responsible for the white shrimp fishery in adjacent federal waters.

Management Program

As shrimp populations are fairly resilient to fishing pressure, the general goal of shrimp management programs is to use scientific information about the shrimp population and fishery to maximize the volume and value of harvests while minimizing the fishery’s impact on other species, such as finfish and sea turtles, and bottom habitats.

Specific management measures vary across the state and federal management authorities but are generally consistent and include seasonal and area closures, gear restrictions, and licensing and permitting requirements. For more on state management, click the individual state tabs; for more on federal management, see FishWatch.gov.