Rock shrimp is still a relative newcomer to the seafood market - mainly because it wasn’t until recently that processors were able to figure out how to split the shrimp’s extra tough shell (thus its name). You generally only see rock shrimp meat available - again it’s that hard shell coming in to play - it’s not something you want to mess with in your own kitchen.
The firm, sweet meat is delicious, however, so don’t hesitate to add this unique shrimp option to a weekend specials menu when it’s available.
Rock shrimp is found from Virginia down through the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula and is well managed.
Most of the shrimp harvested in US waters are relatively short lived (1.5 to 2 years) and mature early (within 6 to 12 months) which makes their populations rather resilient to fishing pressure. Current research shows brown, white and pink shrimp populations are in good shape, and although there is less information available about rock shrimp and royal red shrimp both these stocks are considered healthy and well managed by NOAA.
The main sustainability concern with shrimp is bycatch, including the incidental take of sea turtles. Shrimpers are required to use turtle excluder devices, and efforts are being made to reduce bycatch of other species as well. Selected boats must carry onboard observers who collect data on bycatch and fishing effort. Boats must also carry vessel monitoring systems to enforce compliance with closed fishing areas.
Rock shrimp specifically is ranked as a “Good Alternative” by Seafood Watch.