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ILVO press release - Friday, June 21, 2019

Brown shrimps in the North Sea are doing just fine

There are many scientific data on the North Sea fish stocks. Specifically for brown shrimps, the time series show no downward trend. Hans Polet, science director at ILVO (Flemish Institute for Agricultural, Fisheries and Nutrition Research): “The recent statement in the media that 5 times less shrimp is found in the North Sea needs some nuance. The data collection in the surf on the Belgian coast that VLIZ has carried out in their citizen science project is a new way to collect data and can increasingly play a role in the monitoring of marine life. It is an interesting extra piece of the puzzle. But for the study of shrimp and climate, other figures from the scientific surveys and the fisheries landings can be taken into account.

“ILVO sees no problem for the shrimp stock across the North Sea. We see that the shrimp fishing is quite intense, but the stock seems to tolerate it. In addition, the shrimp sector in the North Sea has imposed itself fishing restrictions since last year in order to fish sustainably. As soon as the catch size per hour of fishing falls below a certain threshold, fishing is stopped for a few days”

The landings of shrimps has also been quite high on average in the last 20 years. Compared to the 1990s, the annual amount has almost doubled. 2018 was an absolute super year. “One of the reasons is that cod - the largest predator of shrimp - has largely disappeared from the southern part of the North Sea, which is probably related to the climate change.

Els Torreele (ILVO): "Shrimp is everywhere off our coast, and quite abundant. We can confirm that there is a slight northward shift in the distribution of brown shrimp based on our tiume series starting in the 1970s. The shrimps used to have their largest concentration at De Panne and Nieuwpoort and have now moved a little more to the north, with higher concentration at Zeebrugge and Knokke."

Shrimp is a fast-growing and short-lived species (2 reproduction cycles per year) and a species that fluctuates greatly, depending on certain weather conditions during the breeding season, presence of predators, etc. Short scientific observation periods may therefore provide an incomplete or distorted picture.


Greet Riebbels, ILVO communications +32 486 26 00 14
Hans Polet, Head of Fishing and Marine research at ILVO +32 494 28 69 71