The harvest of brown shrimp in the western Gulf of Mexico is expected to be 39.2 million pounds, which is below the historical 55-year average of 56.4 million pounds, according to NOAA’s annual forecast. The prediction covers the period from July 2016 through June 2017 for state and federal waters off Louisiana and federal waters off Texas.
Texas and Louisiana experienced record high rainfall this spring that subsequently led to large freshwater discharges into the estuaries. Moreover, extremely low dissolved oxygen levels are still persisting in Texas and western Louisiana’s shallow coastal waters.
The unprecedented flooding in Texas forced young shrimp out of their nursery habitats needed for growth and survival and into the mouth of the bays.
According to NOAA, these extreme environmental factors could impact the agency’s forecast of harvest of brown shrimp this year since it is unknown whether survival of shrimp was reduced or shrimp just moved out of the sampling area, because of the reduced salinities and low oxygen levels.
NOAA scientists make the annual prediction of brown shrimp catches based on monitoring of juvenile brown shrimp abundance, growth estimates and environmental indicators. They predict shrimp catches for state and federal waters off Louisiana from west of the Mississippi River to the Texas-Louisiana border to be approximately 21.9 million pounds this season. The Texas portion of the catch is predicted to be 17.3 million pounds.
Most of the shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from the Gulf of Mexico, especially Texas and Louisiana. Total domestic shrimp harvest brought in $681 million in 2014.
Young brown shrimp begin entering estuaries in Texas and western Louisiana in mid-February and continue through July, with peak recruitment occurring from February through early April.
A wide array of environmental and biological factors affects the fate of young shrimp entering the estuaries. Three environmental variables: temperature, salinity, and tidal height, have been correlated with subsequent shrimp production.
Juvenile brown shrimp abundance and growth estimates are obtained by monitoring the inshore commercial shrimp fisheries in Texas and the inshore and nearshore fisheries in Louisiana.
Data for these forecasts are obtained from NOAA Fisheries Galveston Laboratory, NOAA port agents, NOAA’s National Climatic Data and Weather Centers, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the commercial shrimp industry.
source: NOAA Fisheries