NOAA 2003-R415
Contact: Ben Sherman
NOAA News Releases 2003
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North Carolina’s 2003 harvest of pink shrimp could be significantly lower than last year’s harvest of 840,000 pounds. Abnormally cooler water temperatures in estuarine nursery grounds occurred this winter when juvenile pink shrimp are most vulnerable, according to a new forecasting capability used by researchers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA is an agency of the Department of Commerce.

This ecological forecast from NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) is a new public service aimed at predicting impacts of chemical, biological and physical ecosystems changes in the nation’s coastal areas. NCCOS expects such ecological forecasts will become a frequent aspect of its work on coastal science issues and their impacts.

The North Carolina pink shrimp forecast for this year is based on a two-week low temperature of 40.4 F during the important time that juvenile pink shrimp are in key North Carolina estuarine nursery grounds. Those low temperatures may be related to increased shrimp mortality as a result of the shrimps’ inability to adapt to changing salinities when water temperatures are unusually cool.

In addition to pink shrimp (Farfantepenaeus duorarum), an important fisheries resource in North Carolina and in the South Atlantic and Gulf Coast states, other living marine species in North Carolina also have over-wintering juvenile stages sensitive to low estuary temperatures. Researchers hope that NOAA/NCCOS ecological monitoring techniques will be valuable in anticipating more general indicators of estuarine conditions for other species – such as sea trout and red drum – that are similarly sensitive to low temperatures.

The waters this year were cooler than the two-week low temperature of 41.9 F in 2000 and 2001, when total North Carolina harvests for the February-July period were 110,000 and 203,000 pounds (heads on) respectively. The 840,000-pound pink shrimp harvest in North Carolina for the same period in 2002 was valued at more than $1.8 million and came after a mild winter in which the lowest two-week water temperature was 46.7 F.

The 2003 two-week temperature low is the fourth lowest since NOAA Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research, in Beaufort, N.C., began its temperature monitoring efforts in 1962. Pink shrimp in North Carolina are at the northern limits of their temperature tolerance and are particularly sensitive to temperature variations.

North Carolina’s pink shrimp harvest varies from year to year, with estuary temperature as the key factor in the fluctuation. The number of pink shrimp available for harvest over the first seven months of the year is strongly influenced by environmental conditions in estuaries where post-larval shrimp develop over the winter months as juveniles. Pink shrimp account for about a quarter of North Carolina’s total shrimp harvest with the larger catch of brown shrimp coming later in the year.

NCCOS is part of the NOAA National Ocean Service that is dedicated to exploring, understanding, conserving and restoring the nation’s coasts and oceans. NOAA Ocean Service balances environmental protection with economic prosperity in fulfilling its mission of promoting safe navigation, supporting coastal communities, sustaining coastal habitats and mitigating coastal hazards.

The Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources.

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