Brown Shrimp

Brown Shrimp

  • Scientific name: Crangon crangon
  • Also known as: Bay Shrimp, Common Shrimp
  • Size: Usually 5 – 6cm, up to a maximum of 9cm
  • Distribution: Wide distribution, being found in the North Sea, Atlantic Ocean and also throughout the Baltic and Mediterranean.

The brown shrimp is common around all of the British and Irish coastlines. They are a commercially important species which is also important to the marine food web as they are consumed by a wide range of sea fish species. There is concern that this species may be being overfished on a commercial basis.


Unsurprisingly, the brown shrimp is usually a brown/red to grey in colour. This is not always the case as they have the ability to change colour to match their surroundings and camouflage themselves from predators. They have a shorter, flatter body than the common prawn, the rostrum is not upturned and the antenna is almost as long as the body.

Habitat, Feeding and Life Cycle

Unlike the common prawn which prefers rocky ground, the brown shrimp lives in sandy and muddy ground, sometimes in estuaries and brackish water. This is because the brown shrimp buries itself under the sediment to protect itself from predators. During daylight hours the brown shrimp will stay hidden away under the seabed with only the antenna protruding from the sand. They will emerge when darkness falls to feed. Like the common prawn they have a wide-ranging diet and will feed on dead marine animals, organic matter, algae, fish eggs and plant matter. While they are often found in high numbers in intertidal areas they can also be found at depths down to around one hundred metres. They are also an important part of the food chain as they provide prey for a wide range of fish species and marine birds.

Commercial Value

The brown shrimp is a popular food species and is very commercially important, with the amount caught every year on worldwide basis varying between 25,000 and 75,000 tons, as the graph above shows. Although the species is generally classed as abundant there are major issues with fish bycatch in prawn fisheries due to the small net mesh sizes which are used to catch prawns.

Commercial caught brown shrimp
A large commercial catch of brown shrimp.

Since the early 2000s there has been some progress made with more selective fishing gear which has helped reduce the fish bycatch but there are concerns over the lack of regulation in brown shrimp fisheries. ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) state that this lack of regulation means that fishing for brown shrimp is taking place at too high an intensity and brown shrimp are being caught at a “suboptimal” average size. They suggest stronger management of the fishery and more research into catch levels to protect stocks of this species.