Argentine Red Shrimp

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Argentine Red Shrimp Sustainability


The National Institute for Fishery Research and Development (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero, INIDEP) began studies on Argentine red shrimp at a national level in the 1980's. The Federal Fisheries Regime, established by National Law 24922, together with its amendments and regulatory decree constitute the legal basis on which the National Fisheries Policy is developed. Such law provides relevant aspects of sea fishing, conservation and management of living marine resources and a fisheries regime including infringements and penalties.


In accordance with the provisions of the aforementioned law, the Federal Fishery Council is composed by:


  • A representative of every seaboard province (Buenos Aires, Río Negro, Chubut. Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego)
  • A fisheries secretary
  • A representative of the Secretary of Natural Resources and Sustainable Development
  • A representative of the Ministry of International Affair, International Trade and Worship.
  • Two representatives appointed by the National Executive Power.


The Federal Fishery Council created guidelines for establishing catch limits, a system for monitoring fishing activity, monitoring the fishery health and enforcement of fishery laws. Since placing these steps in place the Argentine red shrimp population has grown robustly and has reached record numbers.

Fishery Improvement Project On-Shore Fishery

Currently the Argentine red shrimp shore fishery is undergoing a Fisher Improvement Project (FIP).


Under Review in This FIP


  • To evaluate the bycatch species of the Argentine red shrimp coastal fishery
  • To evaluate any potential impact of the Argentine red shrimp fishery on the seabed and surrounding ecosystem
  • To coordinate the different jurisdictions that manage the Argentine red shrimp fishery
  • To assure a formal and regular assessment of the efficacy of the fishery's management

Argentine Red Shrimp History


Under Argentine Law Nº 24.922 provincial governments have jurisdiction over the harvest of living resources in their coastal water from the shoreline to up to twelve nautical miles out. The Argentine red shrimp fishery is one of the most important in the Southwest Atlantic. The coastal fisheries are measured from baselines that define the characteristics of the fisheries.


This fishery under FIP consists of vessels less than 21 meters in length which use bottom trawl nets. The area under review is the waters off the providence of Chubut primarily in the Restricted Fishing Effort Zone between Punta León and Cabo Dos Bahías. Rawson port is the landing site for this day boat fishery from October through March.


The National Institute for Fishery Research and Development (Instituto Nacional de Investigación y Desarrollo Pesquero, INIDEP) began studies on Argentine red shrimp at a national level in the 1980's. These studies revealed three distinct reproduction zones south of Rawson, north of San Jorge Gulf and south of San Jorge Gulf. There is slight variation in the start of breeding time, lengths of breeding time and intensities of breeding but the variations were not found to be great enough to consider these groups separate sub stocks. For this reason they are all viewed as a single stock fishery creating a need to coordinate regulations between Chubut and Santa Cruz and the at sea fishery in national waters.


In the waters off Chubut mobile closures are used to regulate the fishery in response to real time stock status. These closures are also coordinated with the actions taken at the national levels with information collected by INIDEP and by Chubut's onboard observers program.


Between 2009-2013 the Argentine red shrimp fishery averaged total annual landings around eighty thousand metric tons. In 2013 total landings reach one hundred metric tons. Of the total fishery landings the coastal fleet of Chubut captured approximately twenty percent of the total landings.


Argentine hake is the only significant bycatch of the Chubut fishery. The total landings consist of 96.6% of Argentine red shrimp and 3.4% of Argentine hake.




  • To conduct and Ecological Risk Assessment for the Effects of Fishing to serve as input to the management system and to an Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) full assessment.
  • To promote the development of a minimum coordination protocol for fishery research and management among the different jurisdictions involved in the fishery’s administration.
  • To raise awareness among and involve crew members in research activities related to the FIP.
  • To promote the regular assessment of the efficacy of the fishery’s management system.
  • To obtain MSC certification for the unit of assessment addressed by this FIP.



Fishery Improvement Project Off-Shore Fishery

Current Improvement Recommendations


  • Integrate available databases at the federal and provincial levels
  • Increase data transparency
  • Integrate the information obtained by different onboard observers programs
  • Incorporate the ecosystem approach to fisheries management
  • Improve compliance with the rules on using devices with grids to release fish bycatch species




The Argentine red shrimp (Pleoticus muelleri) is one of the main resources in the Argentine Sea. Its bottom trawl fishery is characterized by a large fluctuation in the annual level of declared landings. Between two successive years, differences of as much as 35 thousand tonnes have been recorded (Bertuche et al., 2000, 2005). These fluctuations are mainly due to environmental factors affecting the early stages of the red shrimp life cycle, and to the fishing effort applied to concentrations during the recruiting process.


The National Institute of Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP) began the research dedicated to this resource in the 1980s. An initial model was proposed to explain the dynamics of red shrimp in Southern waters, according to which the reproduction process would take place mainly at the north of the San Jorge Gulf, and recruitment at the south of the Gulf, with two dispersive phenomena towards the south and northeast. Subsequent studies showed that the reproduction process takes place throughout the entire Patagonian coast, focusing on three areas: at the south of Rawson, at the north of the San Jorge Gulf and at the south of the San Jorge Gulf. In these locations, the reproduction process would have different start dates and would have different durations and intensities (De Carli et al, 2012). This would seem to suggest the existence of different sub-stocks of Argentine red shrimp; however, the evidence is insufficient to differentiate them. Currently, the fishery is managed as if it acts upon a single stock.


The difficulty in identifying functional units resulted in specific management tools that seek to eliminate or mitigate the factors that could negatively affect the abundance of red shrimp, and were set in response to an oversizing of fishing effort that led to overfishing in the mid-90s. Currently, there is a system of mobile closures, which are added to other restrictions such as minimum mesh size at the back of the net, escape devices for juvenile hake, limited time per fishing haul, towing speed, height at the mouth of the net, night fishing ban, limits for the allowable amount of broken specimens and of specimens of sizesless than 70 units per kilo (up to 20% of total processed weight). The response to these management measures has been positive, although the reticence to make use of escape devices for juvenile hake persists, causing a negative interaction between this fishery and the Argentine hake (Merluccius hubbsi) fishery located south of 41°S, which is currently in recovery after an extended period of depletion. This interaction is much more pronounced for the freezing fleet, and less pronounced for the coastal fleet based in the port of Rawson.

Moreover, the fishery also interacts with other species, as occurs in many other similar fisheries. Among the bycatch species are the following elasmobranchs: picked dogfish (Squalus acanthias), short spinespur dog (Squalus mitsukurii), narrow mouthed cat shark (Schroederichthys bivius), tope shark (Galeorhinus galeus), narrow nose smooth hound (Mustelus schmitii) and rays from the Squatina family (Cedrolaet al, 2012). Additionally, the interaction of the fishery and the habitat needs to be better characterized. There have been efforts to study the interaction with benthic communities but these have not had the necessary continuity.


Annually, the Argentine red shrimp fishery begins its activity at the south of the San Jorge Gulf between the months of March and April. By June and July, fishing operations are enabled in national waters outside the San Jorge Gulf, and from the start of the southern hemisphere Spring, catches are centered at the north of the Gulf and off the coast of the province of Chubut (De Carli et al, 2012 ). The red shrimp fishery produced landings of around 80 thousand tonnes per year in the period 2009/2013, beating the historical record in 2013 when more than 100 thousand tonnes were landed.


The Argentine red shrimp industry is export-oriented. Its main markets are Spain (45%), Japan (19%), Italy (15%), China (7%) and the USA (2%) (Minagri, 2013).


At the start of the FIP, the fishery is undergoing a period of stability. The main issues regarding its sustainability are:

The bycatch of hake (Merluccius hubbsi). While in recent years the estimated catches of hake have been declining, they are still significant: discards are in the order of 11 thousand tonnes. The Southern stock of Argentine hake is currently in an initial process of recovery after a long period of depletion.


Escape devices lawfully admitted (Disela II and Hargril) are generally not used by the fishing fleet.

The research campaigns conducted by INIDEP are not specifically aimed at the species and do not have the regularity needed to make year comparisons.


The onboard observer programs of the provinces of Chubut and Santa Cruz and the onboard observer program for national waters do not work in a coordinated fashion and scientific data is not unified.


FIP Objectives


  • Encourage an increase in the transparency of the scientific data.
  • Promote the integration of the information obtained by the various on board observers programs.
  • Incorporate the ecosystem approach to fisheries management.
  • Improve enforcement of the rules on the use of grids for fish escape.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)

The above Fisheries Improvement Project has been launched by the shore fishery of Chubut with the goal of achieving Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifications. The MSC pre-assessment showed some weaknesses in the fishery. As a result the FIP was put in place to create an action plan to address the issues.


The primary weakness is the lack of solid documentation related to the impact of the fishery on the environment. To achieve retrieve data on the environmental impact of the fishery an onboard fishery program was developed where they will document any impacts.

© Todd Wendt 2016 All rights reserved