Commercially importantFisheries Importance: The brown shrimp is a highly valued commercial fishery species both within Florida and nationally. The statewide commercial catch of brown shrimp, Penaeus aztecus
, between the years 1987 - 2001 was 31.5 million pounds, with a dollar value of over $71.1 million. Within the 5 county area encompassing the IRL (Volusia, Brevard, Indian River, St. Lucie and Martin Counties) the commercial catch of brown shrimp accounts for approximately 16% of the statewide total, with a harvest of 4.6 million pounds, and a value of over $11.6 million.This ranks the brown shrimp tenth in commercial value within the IRL, and sixteenth in pounds harvested.Figure 1 and Table 1 below show the dollar value of the brown shrimp fishery to IRL counties by year. As shown, commercial catch ranged from a low of $65,978 in 1988 to a high of over $1.9 million in 1996. Brevard County accounted for the bulk of the commercial catch in most years, with 58% of the total brown shrimp harvest in the IRL area. Volusia County ranked second, with 32% of the harvest.St. Lucie County reported commercial harvests for brown shrimp in only 5 years, from 1993 - 1998, yet accounted for 10% of the total catch. Commercial catches for brown shrimp were not reported from either Indian River or Martin Counties.Benefit in IRL: Brown shrimp are commercially important in Florida. Fisheries data from 1996 shows brown shrimp catches in Brevard County, Indian River County and Martin County of approximately 906,900 pounds of the state-wide catch (data provided by Florida Department of Environmental Protection). Two other counties, St. Lucie and Volusia did not report commercial harvests of brown shrimp. In these counties, rock shrimp made up the bulk of commercial harvesting efforts.Statistics from the National Marine Fisheries Service show that state-wide in Florida during 1998, 250 metric tons of brown shrimp were harvested, with a value of $1,475,059. In 1999, state-wide captures of brown shrimp were 395 metric tons, at a value of $2,163,466.