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What are Bay Shrimp?

Mary McMahon
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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Bay shrimp are small shrimp that inhabit estuaries along the Western coast of North America, from Alaska to San Diego. These shrimp are not commercially important, except in the San Francisco Bay, where they are caught primarily for use as bait, although some people also consume them. They are also of interest as an indicator species, thanks to their sensitivity to overfishing, temperature changes, chemical pollution, and fluctuations in salinity.

Formally known as Crangon franciscorum, these shrimp have slightly flattened dark gray to yellowish gray bodies and pink eyes. They go by a variety of alternate names, including California shrimp, black shrimp, sand shrimp, common shrimp, and grass shrimp, and they prefer the mildly saline waters of bays and estuaries, not the open ocean. In the San Francisco Bay, they are the most common shrimp species.

When bay shrimp spawn, they congregate in areas of higher salinity. Salinity levels appear to have an impact on the development of the young shrimp, so biologists may track the movements and health of shrimp populations to see how salinity changes are affecting them. Because many estuaries are at risk of heavy pollution, these crustaceans are also a very useful indicator species, as they can provide early warnings about a pollution problem.

In bays where fishing and other human activities take place, bay shrimp can also be used to monitor the impact of human activity on the environment. They are a common bycatch in nets, so a drastic decline in their population can suggest unsustainable fishing practices. These crustaceans are also sensitive to construction projects, which may drive away sources of food or alter the composition of the water.

In regions where the shrimp are treated as a commercial commodity, the vast majority are caught for use as bait by fishermen and commercial fisheries. They are also perfectly edible, however, and some people on the West Coast consider them to be a delicacy, perhaps because they are not as commonly available on the open market as other species.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a All Things Nature researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By ValleyFiah — On Aug 23, 2010

@ Chefy96- I often find bay shrimp already steamed and deveined in the grocery store. I use them to make a bay shrimp salad. I am not sure if these are true bay shrimp, but they are cheap and they taste all right.

By aplenty — On Aug 23, 2010

@ Chefy98- When I'm cooking small shrimp, I do not devein them. The vein is often small, and does little to affect the taste. I do try to cook fresh water prawns or farmed shrimp when I am not deveining them, simply because they tend to be less gritty. I also think that shrimp farmers tend to starve their shrimp before harvest to make sure that they are sold with clean intestines. This is why farm raised shrimp tends to have the clear blue veins that have no black. I usually poach whole shrimp in a buttery broth and serve them just the way they are. Their messy, but they sure are tasty.

By chicada — On Aug 23, 2010

@ Chefy96- Many people eat shrimp without deveining them. Generally, people devein the largest of the shrimp. Smaller shrimp can be served both ways, and how they are served is dependent on personal taste and cultural differences. In the southern United States, it is common to find boiled shrimp that are completely whole. People will eat them and then suck the juices out of the head. This is also a common preparation in Europe and parts of Asia.

You can clean shrimp without actually slicing them down the back too. To devein a shrimp without cutting it open, you simply use a toothpick to loop and pull the vein at the point the body meets the tail. this allows you to leave shrimp intact for boiling, broiling, and grilling. The cooked shrimp will retain more of its flavor, fats, and juices, greatly enhancing the taste.

By chefy96 — On Jan 19, 2009

Is it true that with bay shrimps you don't have to devein them?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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