Tropical Shrimp

WWF seeks effective ways to make shrimp fishing, production and consumption more sustainable through collaborations with other NGOs, governments, scientists tropical shrimp fishers and the shrimp supply chain.
Penaeus spp. (tropical shrimp)
© Vielmo&Dott/WWF Germany

About the species

Tropical shrimp can be found all around the global tropical belt and make up the bulk of what we find on the market.  in the 
With only a short lifespan, they grow quickly and reproduce fast. 

Important tropical shrimp species include the Giant Tiger shrimp (P.monodon), the Brown shrimp (Parapenaeosis atlantica), Caribbean pink shrimp (Farfantepaneus duorarum), Grey shrimp (Paneus kerathurus), Pink shrimp (Penaeus notialis) or white shrimp ( Paneus merguiensis).  

 / ©: Jurgen FREUND / WWF-CANON
Shrimp fishermen with push nets at sunset. Bicol, Philippines

The tropical shrimp market

Over the past decade, tropical shrimp has become on of the world´s most valued seafoods, accounting for 20% of internationally traded fish products in terms of market value, caught mainly for consumption in North America, the EU and Japan.

Shrimp fishing fleets have increased rapidly over the last 30 years, leaving us with populations that are faced with a fast decline in most shrimp fisheries.

Both large industrial off-shore shrimp vessels and smaller artisanal in-shore vessels catch this high-value commercial shrimp species and sell it, either directly as fresh shrimp on the local market or frozen or processed to the supply chain sector before they end up on our plate. 

The strong position of tropical shrimp on international markets has been driven by the high value and market demand for shrimp, high investment in the private and public sector, and the rapid expansion of shrimp aquaculture. 

The facts

  • 1.3 million tonnes of tropical shrimp are caught annually (FAO)
  • There are more than 400,000 trawlers from approx. 65 different countries who catch shrimp today (WWF blueprint report)
  • About 40% of tropical shrimp catches happen in the Coral Triangle 
  • Shrimp trawling is considered to be one of the most damaging and non-selective fishing methods in the world (IUCN)
  • The shrimp business generates worldwide income for 900,000 fishers approx. (WWF blueprint report)
  • Industrial trawlers can go over 18 meters in length

What is the problem with tropical shrimp?

 / ©:  © WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND
Trawler catch, Borneo/Malaysia.
© © WWF-Canon / Jürgen FREUND
Tropical shrimp trawling (TST) has one of the largest bycatch rates of all fishing techniques and often damages the ocean´s seafloor.
TST is an active fisheries practice in as many as 65 countries. Heavy, large trawl nets are dragged over the seafloor and scoop up everything in their path. Trawl nets entrap 5-20kgs of bycatch for each kilogram of shrimp. Species caught include marine turtles, juvenile fish, cetaceans, dugongs, sharks, seahorses, seabirds, sea snakes, corals and other invertebrates such as crabs and starfish.

For example, in the Gulf of Mexico, US, shrimp trawlers catch as many as 35 million juvenile red snappers each year, enough to harm the population. Whilst in the Gulf of California, entanglement in shrimp trawler nets threatens the world's smallest and most endangered small marine cetacean - the vaquita - with potential extinction.

Trawling often also causes damage to the seafloor, crushing other animals and destroying important and sensitive habitats such as sea grass and corals that serve as vital nursery and spawning grounds for juvenile fish and other species. 

 / ©: Peter Diamond
Bottom trawl fishing
© Peter Diamond
TST is not just catching shrimp, it has a very high bycatch rate.
Shrimp fleet in harbour, Gulf of California, Mexico. / ©: WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
Shrimp fleet in harbour, Gulf of California, Mexico.
© WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
Shrimp fishing boat, Gulf of California, Mexico. / ©: WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
Shrimp fishing boat, Gulf of California, Mexico.
© WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA

What WWF is doing

WWF seeks for effective ways to make shrimp fishing production and consumption more sustainable working with other NGOs, governments, scientists, the shrimp industry, retailers and buyers on the market. 

For example, WWF promotes consumer initiatives and trade management measures that encourage sustainable, traceable fisheries and responsible products on the market, such as the Marine Stewardship Council programme for example. 

In August 2011, WWF published a tropical shrimp trawl "Blueprint" report that serves as a first but important step towards sustainable tropical shrimp fishing and better governance. 

Find out more about WWF´s solutions to unsustainable fishing practices, fisheries management and markets.

Sustainable shrimp on my plate?

A Blueprint for moving toward sustainable tropical shrimp trawl fisheries

Well-managed shrimp fisheries

A combination turtle excluder device/bycatch reduction device manufactured by Saunders Marine ... / ©: NOAA
A combination turtle excluder device/bycatch reduction device manufactured by Saunders Marine Machine Shop. Turtles escape by swimming forward and out of the large holes in the net. Shrimp are swept into the bag at the end of the net and cannot swim out.
Luckily, not all TST fisheries are badly managed. For example, in countries like Australia and French Guianas for example, shrimp trawling has made  significant progress in terms of reducing bycatch practices such as through the implementation of Turtles Excluder Devices (TED- see picture) and applying an "eco-system based" management approach that takes into account ecological, scientific and socio-economic data before implementing proper measures. 

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