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Shrimp Identification and Biology

More than 80 shrimp species inhabit Washington waters. Only seven species though, are regularly captured for consumption by sport harvesters. Almost all sport shrimp harvest takes place in Puget Sound or its connecting waters.

All seven harvested species belong to the family Pandalidae, and share similar biology and life history. Shrimp of this family have a unique reproductive cycle, maturing first as males, then changing sex in later years to reproduce as females.

Puget Sound shrimp spawn in late summer or fall. Eggs develop in the female prior to spawning, and can be seen as a dark band just under the shell on the head. Shortly after mating, eggs are extruded to the underside of the abdomen, where they are fertilized by a packet of sperm previously obtained from the male, then attached to the female's specialized legs. The female carries the developing eggs until they hatch in early spring. Newly hatched shrimp larvae are small (about 3/16 of an inch, or 5mm), planktonic (free floating, unable to swim against currents), and bear only a superficial resemblance to adults.

About three months after hatching, larvae gradually start to take on the appearance and habits of adults. The larvae continue to develop, maturing as males within 18 months of hatching. They reproduce as males for one or two seasons before transforming into females for the next fall's mating season. Females reproduce for one or two seasons, and do not seem to survive long after their final brood is hatched (at age 4 or 5 years).

The proportion of shrimp changing sex from male to female varies from year-to year. A few individuals will skip the male phase and spend their entire lives as females. Recent studies indicate that increased fishing pressure or high natural mortality can induce males to change into females at a younger age, or completely skip the male phase. This reproductive strategy may help to ensure that there is an adequate supply of egg-producing females each year.

Shrimp are found primarily on or near the bottom, but make daily migrations through the water column in search of food. They have been found at depths greater than 1,000 feet, but are most frequently captured at depths of 30 to 300 feet.

Adult shrimp are omnivorous, feeding on marine worms, small crustaceans, large planktonic organisms, sponges, and dead animal and plant material. In turn, a variety of fish prey on shrimp, including cod, lingcod, hake, flounder, halibut, dogfish, skates, and other bottom fish.

NOAA Kodiak Laboratory webpage has a very good shrimp species comparison photo.

Other links

Shrimp Identification

Spot Shrimp (Prawn)
Pandalus platyceros

Spot Shrimp (Prawn)


spot shrimp drawing

Spot shrimp have a deep pink/red or pink/orange body with white lines on the head and two pairs of white spots on the tail end.

Spot shrimp are the largest shrimp in Puget Sound, and may reach a length of more than nine inches (23 cm), excluding the antennae. Spot shrimp are most common in Hood Canal, the San Juan Islands, and northern and central Puget Sound. This is one of the most important shrimp species for both sport and commercial harvesters. Learn more >>

 

Sidestripe Shrimp
Pandalopsis dispar

sidestripe phot


sidestripe drawing

The sidestripe shrimp is reddish-orange in color with rows of white bars on its head and tail. Another key feature is its long antennae, which are approximately 1.5 times the length of the body.

The sidestripe is second to the spot shrimp in size, and may reach a length of more than eight inches (20cm). It is found in southern Puget Sound, Hood Canal,and the San Juan Islands, but rarely enters shrimp traps.


 

Dock (Coonstripe) Shrimp
Pandalus danae

danae photo--DON V

danae photo--king co

dock photo

The dock shrimp is one of three species commonly called coonstripes.

It is a brownish shrimp with brown lines and spots on the head and tail, and may have small red or blue dots on the head. Dock shrimp seem to prefer areas of sand and gravel with swift tidal currents.

Large individuals may reach five and one-half inches in length (14 cm), excluding the antennae.

Dock shrimp are common in the San Juan Islands, northern Puget Sound, and the Strait of Juan de Fuca.


 

Humpback (Coonstripe) Shrimp
Pandalus hypsinotus

coon photo


hypsinotus drawing

This species of coonstripe shrimp is a mottled reddish-brown in color, with some white patches on the lower head and tail. There is a prominent ridge or hump on the head, with 17 to 21 spines running down the head and snout.

This is the largest of the three coonstripes, and may attain lengths of up to seven inches (19 cm), excluding the antennae. They are commonly found in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, around the San Juan Islands, and in northern and central Puget Sound.


 

Humpy (Coonstripe) Shrimp
Pandalus goniurus

The humpy is similar in appearance to the dock shrimp, except the stripes
of the humpy are red to orange in color (compare to brown in the dock shrimp).

This is a small shrimp, not exceeding three inches (7.5 cm) in length, excluding the antennae. Another key for identification is the third tail segment, which is enlarged, causing a definite humpback appearance. The spines do not extend to the outer half of the snout (rostrum). Humpies are occasionally captured near the San Juan Islands.

humpy shrimp drawing


 

Northern (Rough) Pink Shrimp
Pandalus eous

rough pink photo


rough pink drawing

The northern pink shrimp is less than six inches (15 cm) long, smaller
than the spot shrimp and the sidestripe shrimp. It can be distinguished
from ocean pink shrimp by a small spine on the top of the third tail segment.

Northern pink shrimp are found primarily in the San Juan Islands,
Strait of Juan de Fuca, and in northern Puget Sound.

 

Ocean (Smooth) Pink Shrimp
Pandalus jordani

pink shrimp photo


ocean pink shrimp drawing

Ocean pink shrimp are almost identical in size and coloration to the northern (rough) pink shrimp, but the spine is absent from the third tail segment.

Commercial shrimpers off the Washington coast harvest large numbers of this species. Ocean pinks are also found in southern Puget Sound, through they are occasionally captured in northern Puget Sound too.