Pink shrimp are found in the western Atlantic from the Chesapeake Bay to the Florida Keys, and throughout the northern Gulf to the Yucatan in Mexico. They’re most abundant off southwestern Florida and the southeastern Gulf of Campeche. Young pink shrimp live in estuarine areas with marsh grasses that provide food and shelter. As they grow, they migrate seaward to deeper, saltier water. They travel primarily at night and bury themselves in the bottom substrate during the day. Adult pink shrimp are commonly found on sand, sand-shell, or coral-mud bottoms.
Pink shrimp grow fast, mature in their first year of life, and reproduce quickly and abundantly. They have a short life span, usually less than two years, essentially making them an “annual crop.” These unique biological characteristics make them more resilient to fishing pressure.
Off Florida, where they’re most abundant, pink shrimp spawn in the open waters of the Gulf from April through July when the water is warmest. Females typically release about 500,000 to one million eggs near the ocean floor. Propelled by currents, newly hatched shrimp travel to their estuarine nursery habitats in late spring and early summer to feed and grow. In several months, they begin migrating back to the Gulf to mature, mate, and spawn, completing their life cycle.
Shrimp are important in estuarine and offshore food webs. Pink shrimp are omnivorous scavengers, feeding on anything from detritus and algae to small invertebrates and fish tissue, depending on their size. Shrimp is a major source of food for many forms of marine life, including many commercially important crabs and finfish.
Pink shrimp are crustaceans with 10 walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front of their abdomen. They have grooves down both sides of their head, which distinguish them from white shrimp, and a dark spot on each side of their bodies, which distinguishes them from brown shrimp. Their bodies are generally gray, bluish, or red-brown and their tail usually has a dark blue band (rather than the purplish band found on brown shrimp).