|Commercial spot prawn catch. Photo credit: J. Gibson|
Most of the commercial shrimp fisheries in Washington are supported by shrimp found in the Pandalidae family. These animals have long upturned noses, called rostrums, and they do not have claws on their first pair of legs. Fascinating fact - all pandalids start out life as males and change sex to females when they are older.
Spot shrimp (Pandalus platyceros) are a prized catch due to their large size and high price tag. Spot shrimp occur throughout Puget Sound but are generally more abundant in the central and northern areas of the Sound as well as Hood Canal. In some areas, spot shrimp can occur in dense aggregations making those areas productive fishing grounds. Due to this localized abundance, fishery openings for spot shrimp tend to last only a few hours rather than days or weeks like other fisheries. The management year runs from March to February, the following year, with harvest restricted from April 15 to September 15 to avoid capturing female shrimp with eggs.
Non-spot shrimp fisheries are managed as a species group rather than by individual species. Sidestripe shrimp (Pandalopsis dispar), coonstripe shrimp (Pandalus hypsinotus), pink shrimp (Pandalus jordani), and dock shrimp (Pandalus danae) comprise this management group of species. Non-spot shrimp are generally abundant throughout Puget Sound and tend to occur in less dense numbers in similar, but shallower, habitat than spot shrimp. Unlike spot shrimp fisheries, however, non-spot shrimp fisheries are open for longer periods of time (weeks to months) due to the lower catch rate of these species. As with spot shrimp, the management year runs from March to February the following year, with harvest restricted from May 1 to October 15 in order to avoid capturing female shrimp with eggs.
Swinomish Fisheries staff conduct pre-season surveys to determine if females have eggs. These surveys ensure all female shrimp have successfully dropped their eggs, indicating that spawning season is complete prior to opening a commercial fishery. Data on the size and sex of shrimp are also collected during these surveys. These sex and size ratios are used as an indicator of population health. Swinomish Fisheries staff also track in-season catch data to ensure harvest targets are met and catch stays within allowable quotas.