Warmwater Shrimp

Penaeus spp.

Market Name(s): Often denoted by color (e.g., white, brown, black tiger) and/or country of origin (Mexican whites, Thai black tigers)

Contact Purchasing
Warmwater Shrimp
  • Primary Source: Asia, Latin America, U.S. Gulf of Mexico
  • Season: Year-round, with heaviest wild landings in summer and fall. Farmed operations harvest one to three times a year, more often the closer to the equator.
  • Primary Fishing Method: Trawled, farmed in ponds

Size Range:

Max Size: 13 inches

Product forms:

FROZEN: Blocks, shell-on tails; IQF: shell-on tails, peeled meats (deveined and undeveined), peeled and cooked meats, various value-added products.

Storage & Handling

Properly glazed, block-frozen shrimp will keep for 9-12 months at 0°F, up to twice as long as IQF product. Slacked out shrimp will keep 4 to 5 days.

Cooking Suggestions

Warmwater shrimp are a versatile, delicious addition to virtually any meal. They range in sizes, but most are large enough to skewer and then grill or broil, perhaps coated with marinade. Also try adding shrimp to stir-fry or pasta. Some excellent appetizers can be made with shrimp — and they hold flavors such as garlic or Asian spices well. And, of course, shrimp are hard to beat boiled and served cold in a shrimp cocktail.

Selling Points

  • Shrimp consumption continues to rise, boosting likelihood of strong sales.
  • Variety of sizes ensures appropriate product for a wide range of applications.
  • Smaller sizes can be promoted as a means to improving plate coverage while lowering portion costs.Improved availability of value-added products (e.g., IQF, peeled, cooked/peeled) can significantly reduce prep times, labor costs and waste.
  • The global expansion of shrimp-farming and the interchangeability of species assures year-round availability.
  • Where available, seasonal (i.e., summer and fall) landings of large wild shrimp can be used to market fresh product.
  • Recent research has debunked shrimp’s high-cholesterol reputation; due to their low level of saturated fat, shrimp can be a valid part of any heart-healthy diet.


  • Poorly trimmed throat meat, broken shells and missing swimmerets are signs of poor handling during processing.
  • Although harmless to humans, black spots are a sign of poor handling (primarily poor icing) during harvesting.
  • Slimy or “soapy” shrimp indicate excessive use of phosphates.
  • Yellowing or pitting is a sign of excessive use of sulfites.
  • Broken or damaged shrimp, leading to high proportions of “pieces” (shrimp with less than 5 whole tail segments).
  • An ammonia smell is a sign of old shrimp.

The Pacific Advantage

  • The largest buyer of Mexican white shrimp means Pacific Group customers get first choice on new season production
  • Volume buying power assures a full range of shrimp sizes at competitive prices
  • Strong relationships with producers and importers means we can offer the widest selection of shrimp products to meet any customer’s needs
  • Strict quality control and receiving procedures assure customers of accurate counts and net weights


One of the world’s most important food commodities, warmwater shrimp are produced in upwards of 100 countries around the globe (more than 25 of which ship to the U.S. market in substantial quantities). Harvested in the wild and grown in aquaculture operations, they’re equally versatile when it comes to preparation and presentation—a big reason shrimp is consistently Americans’ favorite fresh/frozen seafood.

According to the United Nations, there are more than 340 species of shrimp of commercial value. Of those, Penaeid species are the dominant type of warmwater shrimp, constituting approximately 80% of the world’s total shrimp production.

Warmwater shrimp account for 85-90 % of the 125,000-130,000 tons of shrimp U.S. fishermen catch in an average year. The leading species in the U.S. catch are brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus), white (P. setiferus) and pink (P. duorarum), with brown shrimp typically accounting for 60% of the total catch.

Although warmwater shrimp are often named by color (e.g., brown, white, pink), all can vary considerably in shading. To tell the difference with shell-on product, feel for a groove or ridge running the length of the shrimp’s carapace. If it’s there, the shrimp is a brown or pink; if not, it’s a white. (All three, of course, cook up pink.)

Although U.S. fishermen catch warmwater shrimp in both the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, more than 80% of the catch comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Starting in May, small-boat fishermen catch small shrimp (mostly browns) in the bays and estuaries; by mid-summer, the shrimp have grown substantially and migrated out to sea where they’re targeted by big freezer boats. (There is also a second inshore season for white shrimp in Louisiana in August.)

While domestic warmwater shrimp are almost exclusively caught in the wild, most imported product is farmed. The leading suppliers of warmwater shrimp to the U.S. market are Thailand, Ecuador, Mexico, India and Indonesia, which together account for approximately 70% of U.S. shrimp imports and more than 50% of the total U.S. shrimp supply.

The most commonly farmed warmwater shrimp species are P. monodon (black tigers), which are farmed throughout Southeast Asia, and P. vannamei, which are farmed throughout Latin America.

Warmwater shrimp are exceptionally fast-growing animals; black tigers, for example, can take just four months to produce a 30- to 35-gram animal, the live-weight equivalent to a 21/25 shell-on tail.

Under normal conditions and disregarding market factors, 41/50 tails provide shrimp farmers the best return on investment. Very small and very large shrimp, on the other hand, tend to be wild-caught.

Shrimp is consistently the second-most popular seafood in the United States (and the No. 1 fresh/frozen seafood). Having posted steady gains for the last several years, U.S. per capita consumption of shrimp Americans is now three pounds a year.

Although most species of warmwater shrimp are interchangeable, some exhibit stronger flavors. Generally speaking, wild shrimp have a stronger flavor than farmed product, with browns being stronger than whites or pinks.

Shrimp are highly sensitive animals, which are very susceptible to stress. For that reason, shrimp farmers are constantly battling disease outbreaks. In recent years, outbreaks of white spot disease in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres have resulted in a decline in world farmed shrimp production.