All About Shrimp
As many are aware, the long-awaited lobster season opened this past week on the 15th. A close relative of lobster, shrimp also occupy an important niche in the Belize fishing industry. This year the spotlight has been on the shrimp industry as many local restaurant and hotel owners have voiced their concerns regarding the amount of shrimp made available for domestic sale. The increasing demand for shrimp in Belize has led to the advent of many commercial shrimp aquaculture operations over the past decade. Aside from its importance as an export, as well as its appeal as a seafood delicacy, shrimp also possess a valuable role in the coral reef ecosystem and are linked to one of the most endangered of marine creatures.
Throughout the world there are over 2,000 species of shrimp that are found in shallow and deep ocean, as well as in freshwater lakes and streams. In addition to lobster, shrimp are closely related to crabs and crayfish. A semi-translucent body, as well as a flexible mid-section and fanlike tail, characterizes these creatures. Shrimp have evolved appendages allowing them to be skilled swimmers, as well as long antennae that assist in signaling approaching danger or potential prey. Most shrimp species range in length from three millimeters to more than 20 centimeters, with larger species known as prawns.
Tropical species, such as the mantis shrimp, can grow to be 55 centimeters. This species is often brightly colored and searches out a safe habitat in the crevices of rocks and coral. Hiding from predators also allows the mantis shrimp to lie in wait for passing prey. When the antennae of this shrimp signal that prey such as fish or crustaceans are near, the shrimp lunges and grabs its prey with miniature claws. Another warm water species is the coral shrimp, which feeds on tiny plants and animals and is also known for its symbiotic behavior of cleaning the debris from the scales of coral fish.
Shrimp reproduction varies with each species, but generally the male shrimp fertilizes the larger female, after which the female lays anywhere from 1,500 to 14,000 eggs! The female usually guards the mass of eggs for a few weeks until they hatch and larvae emerge. After passing through five different stages of development, the larvae become mature shrimp.
The Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute is concerned with the current shrimp population and recommends that not only should the closed season be revised, but shrimping must be prohibited within a specified distance from the shoreline. In addition, it seems likely that commercial aquaculture facilities will continue to increase in an attempt to compensate for decreasing natural stocks.
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