Northern Shrimp | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Northern Shrimp

Pandalus borealis

Also known as

Northern prawn, deepwater prawn, pink shrimp


Northwest Atlantic and northeast Pacific Ocean


Soft bottoms with features that provide protection

Feeding Habits

Foraging omnivore

Conservation Status

Not listed


Subphylum Crustacea (crabs, shrimps, and relatives); Family Penaeidae (prawns)


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Northern shrimp, also commonly known as northern prawn, are a sequential hermaphrodite. This is a term used for animals that start their life as one sex and change to the other later in life. In the case of northern shrimp, they are born as males and become females at around four or five years of age. This type of hermaphroditism is common in many other species of fish and gastropods (like snails and slugs). The common clownfish, like Nemo from the movie Finding Nemo, is another species that exhibits sequential hermaphroditism. 

Fished in both the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, the commercial fishery for northern shrimp in the Atlantic began in the 1960s and 1970s, although the trawl fishery did not expand to its full potential until it was able to overcome bycatch (incidental catch) of groundfish by introducing the Nordmore grate in the early 1990s. The Nordmore grate fits into the opening of a trawl and only allows small species, like shrimp, to fit between the rungs of the grate into the net, while larger species, like groundfish and sea turtles, are excluded and directed toward an escape opening in the net. Today, Canada leads the way globally with exports of cold water shrimp, exporting more than any other country in the world. Shrimp is Canada’s fourth most valuable seafood export. Northern shrimp is by far the most abundant species of shrimp, at least in Atlantic Canada, with about 97 per cent of the commercial fishery in the region represented by Northern shrimp. 

In the Pacific Ocean, the catch of northern shrimp in the Pacific prawn and shrimp fishery is negligible, with higher catches of spot prawn, smooth pink shrimp and sidestripe shrimp observed in the region. The inshore fishery operates from spring to fall, while the offshore fishery operates all year long. The fishery is highly regulated and managed in a fairly sustainable manner, taking into account scientific information on population size when establishing Total Allowable Catches (TACs). 

Northern shrimp caught by trawl in Eastern Canada is listed as sustainable by some certifications but there is concern about the use of bottom trawling and its impact on habitat. Northern shrimp caught by trap in eastern Canada, on the other hand, is listed as sustainable by all seafood certifications and is widely accepted as a sustainable seafood option.