Shrimping Industry Booms As Harvest Region Moves North

Jan 22, 2019

File photo of a shrimp trawler.
Credit NOAA Fishwatch / Wikipedia

The shrimping industry is booming as more of the crustaceans are being harvested farther north and later in the season.

The Virginian-Pilot reported trawlers bringing in tens of thousands of pounds of shrimp off Corolla in recent weeks.

Sara Mirabilio, a fisheries extension specialist with the North Carolina Sea Grant, says January is traditionally a lean month for commercial fishermen and their families.

“They don't catch a lot and they're trying to buy their supplies to gear up for the spring fish and everything,” Mirabilio said. “So they're out-laying a lot of money and no money's coming in. So, yeah, I think that this is pretty good to have this fishery out there at a time when they can't fish on anything else.”

Climate change is leading to warmer, saltier water, and Mirabilio suspects that's what's attracting the surge of shrimp over the past few years.

Mirabilio adds that shrimp are not as closely monitored as other fisheries species, but she and other experts say shrimp are attracted to warmer, saltier water that's sticking around later into the year and moving northward.

“It's really plausible that really this is just sort of a range expansion of shrimp,” she said. “Because of changing climate, they're actually now presenting themself (sic) with more regularity, to the point that the state of Virginia opened up shrimping.”

Mirabilio also credits water quality improvement efforts in the Chesapeake Bay for improving young fish habitat in the region. 

“If your estuaries, if your sounds, if your bays are having improved water quality, and you're doing a better job of protecting nurseries and stuff, one would also suppose that the shrimp harvest would increase just because the habitat is more favorable for them,” she said.

Tags: