Bay shrimp are commercially important in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The bay shrimp is a small shrimp that inhabits estuaries along the west coast of North America, from Alaska to San Diego. These shrimp are not commercially important, except in San Francisco Bay, where they are captured primarily for use as bait, although some people consume them as well. They are also of interest as an indicator species, thanks to their sensitivity to overfishing, temperature changes, chemical pollution, and fluctuations in salinity.
Blonde shrimp can be used in place of other varieties in the preparation of a variety of dishes.
Known formally as Crangon franciscorum, these shrimp feature slightly flattened dark gray to yellowish gray bodies and pink eyes. They have a variety of alternate names, including Californian shrimp, black shrimp, sand shrimp, common shrimp, and grass shrimp, and prefer the gently salty waters of bays and estuaries, not the open ocean. In San Francisco Bay, they are the most common shrimp species.
In regions where shrimp are treated as a commercial commodity, the vast majority are caught for use as bait by fishermen and commercial fish.
When bay shrimp spawn, they gather in areas of higher salinity. Salinity levels appear to have an impact on the development of juvenile shrimp, so biologists can track the movements and health of shrimp populations to see how salinity changes are affecting them. As many estuaries are at risk of heavy pollution, these crustaceans are also 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 common bycatch in nets, so a drastic decline in their population could suggest unsustainable fishing practices. These crustaceans are also sensitive to construction projects, which can push away food sources or change the composition of the water.
In regions where shrimp are treated as a commercial commodity, the vast majority are caught for use as bait by fishermen and commercial fish. They are also perfectly edible, however, and some people on the West Coast consider them a delicacy, perhaps because they are not as commonly available on the open market as other species.