Gulf of Mexico Louisiana Shrimp
Fishery Improvement Project
Last Update: April 2015
white shrimp (Litopenaeus setiferus)
brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus)
FIP Scope/Scale: Fishery level
Fishery Location: Louisiana state and federal waters in the US Gulf of Mexico
FIP Contact: If you would like more information about the FIP or wish to support the FIP, please contact SFP.
See Sustainability Info tab in FishSource:
Date Publicly Announced: 2010
FIP Stage: 5, improvements in the water
Current Improvement Recommendations:
- Create a Louisiana state Fishery Management Plan (FMP)
- Release information on shrimp fishery bycatch (all gears) in state waters, including sea turtle interactions
- Release state fishery enforcement and compliance information
The commercial shrimp fishery is one of the most economically important fisheries in the southeast Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. In 2011, white shrimp landings in Louisiana were nearly 26 thousand metric tons (over 57 million pounds) while brown shrimp landings were nearly 18 thousand metric tons (over 39 million pounds). Approximately 70 percent of Louisiana’s shrimp landings are from state waters. Nearly all of the shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico are consumed in the US and they account for only about 10 percent of national consumption, with the rest coming mainly from farmed, imported shrimp.
In Louisiana, the primary gears used to harvest shrimp are otter and skimmer trawls (otter trawls are essentially the sole type of gear used in federal waters, while skimmer trawls are commonly used in state waters). Fishermen may also use wing nets (butterfly nets), pusher-head trawls (chopstick rigs), stationary butterfly nets, roller-frame trawls, and cast nets in state waters. Vessels fishing with otter trawls are required to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in all federal and state waters; however, Louisiana currently has a state law that prohibits state law enforcement agents from enforcing turtle excluder device (TED) regulations. This federal regulation is still enforced by federal law enforcement agents and the Coast Guard and, according to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), if LDWF agents notice a TED violation in state waters they will report it to a federal enforcement agent. Skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and butterfly trawls are not required to use TEDs if they limit tow times to 55 minutes. Recent research suggests that there is low compliance with tow time limits and that skimmer trawls are catching juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. The federal government is currently researching turtle bycatch in skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and butterfly trawls and considering alternatives to reduce this turtle bycatch. This regulation is difficult to enforce and compliance is not well documented. Bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) are also required in federal waters; however, they are not required in state waters of Louisiana.
While both a traditional economic engine in the coastal communities of the Gulf of Mexico and a major supplier of shrimp to many markets, the shrimp fishery has also had to deal with environmental implications of its harvesting methodology. A number of improvements have been made to reduce the impact of the shrimp fishery on the environment, including mandatory TEDs and BRDs in federal waters, area closures, and sea turtle nesting enhancement projects, but there are still areas for improvements in sustainability.
An additional complication for the Louisiana shrimp fishery is the difference in management strategies and information between Louisiana state and US federal management systems. As such, the fisheries in state waters and federal waters were reviewed in separate certification pre-assessments, yielding very different results. The pre-assessment of the fishery in state waters was generally inconclusive because of the lack of publicly available information on status, management, and ecosystem effects within the state’s jurisdiction.
The initial activities in this FIP are for LDWF to compile and make public as much information as possible about the management strategies and techniques used in Louisiana’s state fisheries management and release as much information as possible pertaining to bycatch and protected species interactions as possible. Many of these tasks will be accomplished in the form of a new shrimp fishery management plan to be developed in 2013/2014, with some items released more quickly. After this information is released the FIP participants will be better able to identify further areas for improvement.
- LDWF will create a Fishery Management Plan. The FMP will include the following information: how shrimp fisheries are monitored and managed in Louisiana state waters; stock assessment of shrimp; information on bycatch and retained species; habitat effects; ecosystem management; long-term objectives and research needs; regulatory processes and enforcement effectiveness.
- LDWF will compile information on sea turtles in state waters and release this information when allowed by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation.
- Release information on the state fishery enforcement system including an evaluation of the system and summarized compliance and enforcement data.
- NMFS published a proposed rule that would require all shrimp trawls, including skimmer nets and butterfly trawls, to use turtle excluder devices (TEDs) in their nets. This proposed rule was later withdrawn because research indicated that the current TED designs would not effectively exclude the most commonly captured turtles (juveniles Kemp’s ridley) in these gears. The federal government began further research on turtle bycatch in skimmer trawls, pusher-head trawls, and wing nets and alternatives to reduce this turtle bycatch.
- National Fish & Seafood, the first FIP participant, reached out to the Louisiana Department of Wildlife & Fisheries (LDWF) to gain a better understanding of the management of the Louisiana shrimp fishery and to inquire about any existing sustainability assessments that have been completed. LDWF reviewed results of the shrimp sustainability assessments at the Louisiana Shrimp Task Force in July 2012, after which LDWF agreed to work with SFP to facilitate this FIP. Fishery stakeholders, including representatives from National Fish and Seafood, Big Easy Foods, Paul Piazza & Son, the American Shrimp Processor Association, the Louisiana Shrimpers Association, and Louisiana Shrimp Task Force met in Houma, LA, in November 2012 to further review the sustainability evaluations and develop preliminary actions for a FIP workplan. The general consensus at this meeting was that the first activities in the FIP should be for LDWF to compile and make public as much information as possible about the management strategies and techniques used in Louisiana’s state fisheries management and release as much information pertaining to bycatch and protected species interactions as possible. Following the meeting, LDWF began development of the FIP workplan and committed to develop a fishery management plan.
- In May, the federal government issued a Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act that established a system to measure and monitor the actual performance of shrimp otter trawls in releasing sea turtles. This new fleet-wide TED performance standard limits the otter trawl fishery to an overall 12-percent sea turtle capture rate12 percent of sea turtles that enter shrimp nets are captured, while 88 percent escape through the TED). The system became effective June 1, 2012. Under these new requirements, NOAA Fisheries is using detailed data on the type and severity of TED violations to estimate sea turtle capture rates. While this system was being implemented, the government began to post TED inspection and compliance information on the NOAA Fisheries Southeast Regional Office sea turtle/shrimp fishery website. The October 2012 report indicated that compliance with federal TED regulations during October 2011–September 2012 was 75 percent. This represents an increase from the 66-percent compliance rate during May–November 2011.
- Gulf Council scientists and managers adopted new stock assessment models for shrimp. The assessments indicated that Gulf of Mexico brown, white, and pink shrimp stocks are not overfished and overfishing is not occurring. A study by Scott-Denton et al. was published in Marine Fisheries Review (Volume 74, Issue 4) indicating that bycatch-to-shrimp ratio in the Gulf of Mexico decreased to 2.5:1, while the finfish-to-shrimp ratio decreased to 2:1.
- Gulf Island Shrimp (a division of Big Easy Foods) joined the FIP.
- In February, NOAA Fisheries announced the results of the first 6 months of the new fleet-wide TED compliance and performance monitoring. The results indicated that from June through November 2012 about 13% of the turtles that encountered otter trawls were captured, while the remainder escaped via the TEDs. This is a 1-percent increase over the estimated sea turtle capture rate during August–November 2011. NOAA Fisheries is holding informal training and courtesy dockside inspections throughout each region to assist fishermen in complying with the TED regulations in order to reduce the sea turtle capture to 12-percent or below in the next 6-month review (December–May 2012).
- Paul Piazza & Son, Inc. and Tommy’s Seafood, Inc., joined the FIP.
- LDWF published Management and Enforcement Reports (completing two FIP tasks) on the Shrimp Task Force website.
- The Fishery Management Plan (FMP) initially was on track to be released mid-year, but was subsequently delayed due to work on the Blue Crab FMP. LDWF now expects to complete the Shrimp FMP in December 2014 or January 2015.
- A plan to transition this FIP to third-party leadership has been established. After the current workplan activities are completed (expected in late 2014 or early 2015, when the FMP is published), SFP will transition leadership of the FIP to the Audubon Nature Institute’s G.U.L.F. (Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries) program. G.U.L.F., as a locally operated organization with strong ties to the local shrimp industry, is well equipped to lead these improvement efforts. G.U.L.F. will post a public report for the FIP and will convene FIP participants and other stakeholders to develop a new workplan.
- The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries released a document on sea turtles in Louisiana (completed a FIP task) in December. This document has been posted to the FIP report here.
January – April
- The FMP publication was delayed from January until March, but then again pushed back to April.
Click here for a more comprehensive description of FIP results