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Brine shrimp harvest

Management of brine shrimp harvest

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) has been granted authority by the Utah Legislature to regulate the taking of all protected wildlife species within the state. Officials have used this authority to issue brine shrimp harvest permits, called a "Certificate of Registration" (COR). Companies that are issued CORs must adhere to the requirements in R657-52, Commercial Harvesting of Brine Shrimp and Brine Shrimp Eggs. The brine shrimp harvesting rule outlines how the CORs are displayed, how boats are marked, reporting requirements to UDWR, season dates, transportation of cysts, and much more.

The harvesters themselves largely drove the evolution of the permitting process. Originally, permits could be obtained by paying a small fee and a royalty fee of $0.04 /lb of product harvested. In 1985, the price of a COR was increased to $3000, and raised again in 1991 to $10,000. During this time, the aquaculture industry was booming, and the demand for brine shrimp was a by-product of this growth. Despite the permit price increases, more and more people entered the brine shrimp industry, and the number of CORs continued to rise until 1996 when UDWR placed a moratorium on new permits. Since that time only 79 permits are available for harvest companies.

Harvest levels have fluctuated dramatically over the years, and the industry has been valued at $10 to $60 million, depending on the quality and quantity of cysts harvested. Just as the brine shrimp are dependent upon the environment for survival so are the harvest companies.

The management strategy that the Division of Wildlife uses to regulate the harvest and ensure a viable shrimp population is based upon the number of cysts needed to repopulate the lake each spring. The minimum cyst number is currently estimated at 21 cysts/liter at the beginning of December.