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Shrimp, Brown (Farfantepenaeus aztecus)
Also known as: Brazils, Brownies, Spring shrimp
Source: Wild-caught in Gulf state waters from West Florida to Texas

Brown shrimp are found in the western Atlantic Ocean from Massachusetts to the Florida Keys and throughout the northern Gulf to the northwestern Yucatan in Mexico. Young brown shrimp are found in estuaries during late winter through early summer. They prefer shallow vegetated habitats but also live on silty sand and non-vegetated mud bottoms. In late spring/early summer, adult brown shrimp move offshore to deeper, saltier water where they live on silt, muddy sand, or sandy bottoms. They are most abundant in waters 10 to 180 feet deep but have been reported at depths as great as 540 feet. Adults are active at night but may burrow during the day.

Brown 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 two years, essentially making them an “annual crop.” These unique biological characteristics make them more resilient to fishing pressure.

Brown shrimp spawn, or release fertilized eggs, in the open waters of the Gulf. Once hatched, shrimp larvae move inshore with the assistance of tides and currents, typically in late winter. The shallow bays and marshes of coastal estuaries provide abundant food and some protection from predators for young shrimp as they feed and grow. In late spring/early summer, brown shrimp begin migrating back to the Gulf to mature, mate, and spawn, completing their life cycle.

Brown shrimp are an important part of estuarine and offshore food webs. They’re omnivorous scavengers and eat anything from detritus and algae to small invertebrates and fish tissue, depending on their size. A number of predators, including foraging and carnivorous fishes and crustaceans such as blue crabs, feed on brown shrimp.

Brown shrimp are crustaceans with 10 walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front of their abdomen. They have medium length antennae and grooves down both sides of their head and the last segment of their tail, which distinguish them from white shrimp. Their color varies depending upon water clarity and bottom type, but they’re generally brownish with tails that have a purple to reddish purple band and green or red pigments.

Found intermittently in Florida’s nearshore waters and estuaries, brown shrimp are one of the three main shrimp species harvested in the Gulf. Fishermen have harvested brown shrimp from the coastal waters of Florida for centuries. In 2013, they harvested more than 1.3 million pounds of brown shrimp off Florida’s Gulf Coast (with dockside revenue of nearly $4 million), slightly higher than harvests of brown shrimp from Florida’s Atlantic Coast, and landed them mainly in the northwest region of the state.

Florida manages their shrimp fishery through a number of measures including regional harvest and gear restrictions, size and bag limits, closed seasons, and license requirements, as well as gear requirements to reduce impacts on other marine animals. Recent assessments show that the brown shrimp population is abundant; unfortunately, the commercial shrimp industry has declined in the past decade, due in part to increased competition from foreign imports and increased operating costs.

Methods Seasons Landings
Commercial Recreational

On Florida’s west coast, commercial fishermen landed more than 1.3 million pounds of brown shrimp in 2013 (with dockside revenue of nearly $4 million), a little over half of the state’s total for this species (by volume).

Source: NOAA Fisheries Annual Commercial Landings Statistics

Landings Summary Data :  

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Overview Current Abundance Additional Reasearch

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) monitors the commercial brown shrimp fishery through its Marine Fisheries Trip Ticket Program, which requires that all sales of seafood products from the waters of Florida must be reported on trip ticket at the time of sale. Trip tickets include information about the harvester, the dealer purchasing the product, the date of the transaction, the county in which the species was landed, time fished, and pounds of each species landed for each trip.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Research Institute biologists sample juvenile shrimp populations in Florida’s estuaries to estimate their abundance. They also participate in regional surveys that collect data on adult shrimp.

Scientists from NOAA Fisheries’ Southeast Fisheries Science Center also use Florida’s survey data, along with abundance data from joint federal and state groundfish surveys and commercial catch data, to assess the annual status of the brown shrimp stock throughout the Gulf. FWC uses this Gulf-wide assessment to monitor the status of brown shrimp. It’s common practice to assess a stock throughout its range—since brown shrimp are found in both state and federal waters, and are managed interjurisdictionally, it’s appropriate to evaluate the condition of the stock as a whole.

Current Abundance

The most recent regional brown shrimp stock assessment (2012) showed that shrimp spawning biomass and recruitment have increased in recent years, while fishing mortality has decreased. This assessment concluded that that the Gulf brown 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 a consideration for fishery managers as with other seafood species. Since shrimp are essentially an “annual crop” (most shrimp do not 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

Who's Responsible Management Program
Who's Responsible

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is responsible for managing the shrimp fishery in state waters, inshore out to nine nautical miles offshore.

Other Gulf states are responsible for managing the brown shrimp fishery in their state waters; the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission helps coordinate management of interjurisdictional fisheries like brown 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 shrimp fishery in adjacent federal waters. State and federal management of this fishery are fairly consistent. For information on federal management, see FishWatch.gov.

Management Program

The goal of Florida’s fishery management program is to manage marine fisheries resources for their long-term well-being and the benefit of the people of Florida, using scientific information and stakeholder input.


  • Commercial fishermen are required to have appropriate licenses to harvest and sell shrimp.
  • Size and harvest limits (varies by region) control harvest pressure on young shrimp.
  • Some areas are closed to shrimping to protect developing populations, other marine species, and their habitat.
  • Fishermen using otter trawls and skimmer nets must use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) which allow incidentally captured sea turtles to escape, and bycatch reduction devices (BRDs), which allow incidentally captured finfish to escape.


  • Recreational fishermen may harvest no more than five gallons of shrimp, heads on, per day to prevent overfishing.

The FWC Law Enforcement Division is responsible for ensuring compliance with all commercial and recreational licensing and fishing regulations, both state and federal, through regular patrols and investigations.