Rock shrimp are similar in size and shape to penaeid shrimp. However, their distinguishing characteristic is their thick, rigid, stony shell. Their body is off-white to pinkish in color with the darker blotches and barred lighter shades on the back. The abdomen has deep grooves and nodules and short hairs cover their bodies.
Rock shrimp are found from Norfolk, Virginia, south through the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula. They mainly live on sand bottoms in water 80 to 215 feet deep, although they've been found in depths of 600 feet. Rock shrimp are active at night and burrow in the sand during the daytime. Larval rock shrimp grow and develop in coastal estuaries and travel back to offshore areas as they mature.
South Atlantic Federal Regulations
A commercial vessel permit and operator permit is required to fish for, sell, transfer, or possess rock shrimp in or from the South Atlantic EEZ. For a person aboard a vessel to fish for or possess rock shrimp in the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia or off Florida, a limited access endorsement for South Atlantic rock shrimp must be issued to the vessel and must be onboard. An owner or operator of a vessel that has been issued a limited access endorsement for South Atlantic rock shrimp must ensure that the vessel has a NMFS-approved, operating Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) on board when on a trip in the South Atlantic. (For additional information regarding permits and VMS requirements, contact NOAA Fisheries at 727-824-5305).
A dealer permit is required to receive rock shrimp. Dealers must only purchase rock shrimp from permitted vessels. No persons may fish for rock shrimp in the Oculina Bank Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC) located off the east coast of Florida. No person may possess rock shrimp in or from this area onboard a fishing vessel.
The minimum mesh size for the cod end of a rock shrimp trawl net in the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia and Florida is 1 7/8 inches (4.8 cm), stretched mesh. This minimum mesh size is required in at least the last 40 meshes forward of the cod end drawstring (tie off rings), and smaller mesh bag liners are not allowed. A vessel that has a trawl net on board that does not meet these requirements may not possess a rock shrimp in or from the South Atlantic EEZ off Georgia or Florida.
For additional information regarding operator permits, download NMFS Southeast Regional Office News Release 11/4/04 (PDF)
NOTICE: As of April 11, 2006, an owner or operator of a vessel in the South Atlantic rock shrimp fishery must submit catch and effort reports and to carry an observer on selected trips and use bycatch reduction devices (BRDs) in nets in the rock shrimp fishery. Final Rule
Reminder! South Atlantic Rock Shrimp Dealer Permits Required - Fishery Bulletin (posted 5/22/08)