Latin Name:
Pandalus borealis
Group Name:
Northern Atlantic
Fishing Gear:
Otter trawl, traps
Fishing Season:

Species at a Glance

Canada exports more cold water shrimp than any other country in the world and shrimp is Canada’s fourth most valuable seafood export. The Northern shrimp is by far the most abundant of the 30 shrimp species found in the Canadian Atlantic, representing approximately 97 percent of the overall commercial fishery in the region. The major markets for Canadian shrimp are Europe (Russia, Denmark, UK), Asia (China and Japan) and the United States. Canada’s shrimp populations are healthy and sustainably managed. Annual fishing quotas are in line with science advice to maintain the future health of the populations.


Over the past decade, total shrimp landings peaked at 185,974 tonnes in 2007 and have declined modestly since then. In 2013, 141,291 tonnes were landed. In 2012, 148,874 tonnes of shrimp were landed. In 2011, 150,776 tonnes of shrimp were harvested in Atlantic Canada. The 2011 landed quantity of Northern shrimp was 146,862 tonnes.

In 2013, the overall export value of shrimp was $319 million and in 2012, the value was $345 million. In 2011, the overall export value for Canadian shrimp/prawns (including Northern shrimp, Pandalus montagui, B.C. shrimp and prawn) was $394 million. The 2011 export value of Northern shrimp is estimated at $342.8 million. The 2011 landed value of total Atlantic shrimp was $311.9 million, and the value of Northern shrimp landings alone was $301.4 million.
Abundance Status and Trends:
Abundance and biomass indices increased greatly in the late 1990s, reaching record high levels in 2006. Although stocks are down in the more southerly extent of the range, they remain in good condition. Landings are above the average over the last 15 years.
There are 15 Shrimp Fishery Areas in Eastern Canada. The inshore fishery operates from the spring to fall, while offshore vessels harvest throughout the year.
Conservation Measures:
Measures include: minimum trawl mesh size, mandatory requirement to use the Nordmore sorting grate on all shrimp fishing trawls to minimize bycatch, at-sea monitoring by fishery observers, the use of closed areas, and dockside monitoring.

Species Background

Shrimp are crustaceans with a hard outer shell that they must periodically shed (or moult) in order to grow. They are found mainly on soft and muddy bottoms, typically between 150 and 600 metres below sea level. Shrimp are distributed throughout the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

In the more northern areas, shrimp are thought to live longer than 8 years, while those in the south probably live for only 6 or 7 years. Shrimp mature at about age two, maturing first as males and then at about age four, changing into females. Shrimp can grow to about 15 to 16 cm in total length, although the average size is about half this. They are considered harvestable once their carapace reaches 18 mm in length, when they are approximately 3 years of age.

Shrimp are an important part of the marine food chain. Shrimp feed on a variety of zooplankton and are major prey for groundfish species, especially cod, hake, redfish, Greenland halibut and flounder.


There are 15 Shrimp Fishery Areas in Eastern Canada, between the Gulf of St. Lawrence off the Scotian Shelf, Northwestern Newfoundland and Labrador, and in the Davis Strait.

The inshore fishery normally operates from the spring to fall. The offshore vessels harvest all year in the Atlantic. Canada’s shrimp harvesters employ otter trawls with a minimum mesh size of 40 mm. Traps are only used in Shrimp Fishery Area 15.

The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization provides recommendations on annual catch quotas for Shrimp Fishery Areas 1 and 7, while the total allowable catch quotas for the other Shrimp Fishery Areas within Canadian waters are set by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. For Shrimp Fishery Area 13, 14 & 15, DFO receives recommendations from the Eastern Scotian Shelf Shrimp Advisory Committee before setting annual quotas. There is no recreational fishing within the Atlantic Canada shrimp fishery.

The fishery by vessels greater than 100 feet produces mainly frozen-at-sea products (cooked and raw) with the shell on, while vessels less than 100 feet land fresh shrimp that is processed in fish plants into a cooked and peeled product.

The following shrimp fisheries (Shrimp Fishery Areas) have received Marine Stewardship Council eco-certification:

  • Northern Shrimp Fishery, inshore and offshore (Shrimp Fishery Areas 5-10 and 12 in the Gulf of St. Lawrence)
  • Scotian Shelf Shrimp Fishery (Shrimp Fishery Areas 13, 14 and 15).

Shrimp Fishing Areas in Atlantic Canada

shrimp fishing areas
Figure 1. Shrimp Fishing Areas in Atlantic Canada

Figure 1 is captioned “Shrimp fishing areas in Atlantic Canada”. It is a map with latitudinal coordinates marked on the x-axis from 45 and 70 degrees and longitudinal coordinates marked on the y-axis from 42 to 66 degrees. The map shows the land masses of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as Greenland. It uses lines to outline the following fishing area boundaries, the Shrimp Fishing Areas (SFA) 2-16: from SFA 2, the most northerly near Greenland, and SFA 4 and 5 close to Labrador, areas SFA 6, 7 and 8 located around the Newfoundland coast; SFA 9-10-12 are near Anticosti Island and the SFA areas 13-16 are located on the Scotian Shelf. In addition, closed areas are shown as boxes on the map: the first one near northern Labrador, the second one off southern Labrador, and one near Newfoundland. The 200 mile limit is shown, as well as 200 Nautical mile limit, as dashed and continuous lines.

Shrimp landings – Historical View

shrimp landings
Figure 2. Shrimp landings and Total Allowable Catches (1990-2009)

Figure 2 is captioned “Shrimp landings and Total Allowable Catches (1990–2009)”. It is a stacked area chart showing the trend of historical landings and quota of shrimp by Canadian harvesters in all fishing areas between 1990 and 2008. The x-axis shows years in 4- year increments and the y- axis shows the landings in 50,000-tonne increments from 0 to 250,000 t. The table shows the increasing shrimp landings from 1990 to 2006. A slight decline is evident since then. The quota or total allowable catch (TAC) is marked every year beginning in 1990 using a line along the graph.

Conservation Measures

All shrimp fisheries in eastern Canada are subject to a range of management measures designed to promote the sustainability of the shrimp resource, to minimize potential bycatch of other species, and to protect biodiversity in the fishery area. Regulations include:

  • annual quotas in the form of total allowable catch;
  • individual quotas for both the inshore and offshore sectors;
  • limited entry licencing;
  • a minimum 40 mm mesh size, which prevents younger shrimp from being caught;
  • mandatory use of a sorting grate to minimize bycatch of non-target species;
  • closing some areas to trawling to protect sensitive species such as corals;
  • discarding rules;
  • at-sea monitoring by fishery observers on all trips by the large vessel fleet;
  • at-sea monitoring by fishery observers on a prescribed percentage, by region, of the small vessel fleet’s trips; and
  • dockside monitoring of all shrimp landings from vessels under 100 feet in length.

All shrimp trawlers must be fitted with a Nordmore separator grate (see image). This grate significantly reduces bycatches of groundfish by directing them towards an exit triangle in the upper panel of the gear. In 1997, the offshore fleet was awarded a Nova Scotia Environmental Award for its efforts to reduce bycatch.

Nordmore separator grate
Figure 3. Nordmore Grate

Figure 3 is an illustration of a Nordmore grate. This is a device that allows larger fish, caught as bycatch in a codend of a trawl net to esape. This is done by a placing a guiding funnel that they can follow and swim out of. The diagram shows an ‘opening for bycatch’ to let the fish escape from the codend while the normal fishing operation proceeds.

Population Estimates

The most recent shrimp assessment shows the following for 2011:

  • Northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (SFAs 8, 9, 10, 12): The main indicator shows that the four stocks that comprise this fishery were in the healthy zone in 2011. The stock status indicator increased by more than 40% in Estuary and Esquiman in 2011 relative to 2010 while it decreased by about 25% in Sept-Iles and Anticosti.
  • Scotian Shelf (SFAs 13 – 16): the stock biomass peaked in 2009. By 2011 it began to decline but remained in the healthy zone.
  • Northern Shrimp Fishery (SFAs 0-7) in recent years, the resource has been decreasing in the south but remains stable or increasing in the north.

Additional Information