Brine shrimp harvests
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Harvesting brine shrimp in the Great Salt Lake

Brine shrimp harvests

An overview of harvests in the Great Salt Lake, past and present

Harvesting brine shrimp in the Great Salt Lake

The brine shrimp harvest industry in the Great Salt Lake has been valued at $10 to $60 million, depending on the quality and quantity of brine shrimp cysts harvested. Just as brine shrimp are dependent upon the lake's functioning environment for survival, so are the harvest companies as well. As of 2024, 21 companies are now harvesting brine shrimp in the North and South Arms of the lake.

Commercial harvesting of brine shrimp from the Great Salt Lake began in 1950. Today, the terms and conditions for harvesting are established by a DWR Administrative Rule:

Administrative Rule R657-52: Commercial harvesting of brine shrimp and brine shrimp eggs, including the permitting of harvesting companies.

As stated in the rule, companies wishing to harvest shrimp in the Great Salt Lake must purchase a Certificate of Registration (COR) annually. Seventy-nine Certificates of Registration are available to purchase each year.

The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources regulates the harvest and ensures a viable shrimp population by allowing a sufficient number of cysts to repopulate the lake each spring. The estimated minimum cyst number is currently 21 cysts per liter at the end of each harvest season.

Harvest procedure

Over time, winds and wave action will pile brine shrimp cysts on beaches. The original harvest method was to rake, shovel, bag and then transport cyst piles by ATVs to waiting trucks or boats. This method still accounts for a large proportion of the total product taken from the Great Salt Lake.

Another harvest method is to use large floating mats to accumulate cysts in the water. These mats are referred to as "streaks" or "slicks," and some are large enough to be seen from space.

Harvester boat in the Great Salt Lake

To find a suitable area to harvest, a spotter airplane will fly over the lake, identifying the streaks that are full of cysts and recording their coordinates. The pilot will then radio the coordinates to the harvester boats, which will quickly move to the streaks and then display bright orange-lettered or numbered buoys to claim an area.

Harvesters will then encircle the streak by deploying a floating containment device very similar to an oil containment boom. The cysts within the streak are then condensed into very small hoops, and vacuum pumps pump the cysts into 2,000-pound capacity mesh bags that rest on the deck of the harvester boat.

The contents of these bags are called "raw product," and they must be washed in order to remove any broken shells, feathers or other debris. Additional processing of cysts prior to selling them on the marketplace involves a period of cold storage, washing them with freshwater to remove salt and other debris, drying them and vacuum sealing them in various containers. Once they are fully processed, they are graded based on their hatch rates and sold at different prices based on their grade quality.

Brine shrimp cysts on the shore of the Great Salt Lake

As the brine shrimp industry has expanded, technology has as well. Advances in communication, Global Positioning Systems, night vision and spotter airplanes, as well as 20-hour or longer harvest days, have increased the efficiency of the harvest by at least four times. In other words, companies today are able to collect four times the weight of cysts compared to when they started in 1950.

Harvest seasons usually begin in October and end in January, as mandated in the DWR Administrative Rule. The DWR conducts regular sampling runs in the Great Salt Lake during each harvest season to monitor the brine shrimp population, and compiles reports of the commercial harvest totals.

Historical harvest totals: View annual totals of brine shrimp harvest totals dating back to the 1985–86 season.

Here is a summary of the most recent harvest season:

2023–24 harvest season

Sampling data

Sorted by brine shrimp sex and life stage. Values are per liter of lake water. (See previous seasons.)

Date Cysts Nauplii Juveniles Males Total
Females
Females Females with
Eggs/Naups
Females
with Cysts
Jan. 29 9.23 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Jan. 25

The 2023–24 brine shrimp harvest season will officially be closed on Jan. 31, 2024 at 5:43 p.m. MST (official sunset) in both the North and South Arms (lake and shore) pursuant to Rule R657-52-12. Harvest may continue on the salt ponds, but must still be reported to the UDWR in the same manner as during the regular season.

Please remember to remove all debris and trash from the shore and lake resulting from harvesting activity.

Jan. 22 9.43 0.00 0.00 0.01 0.00 0.00 0.00 0.00
Jan. 16 78.26 0.00 0.00 0.04 0.04 0.03 0.01 0.00
Jan. 3 32.72 0.07 0.01 0.24 0.23 0.15 0.05 0.03
Dec. 21 27.56 0.07 0.02 0.33 0.29 0.17 0.06 0.06
Dec. 18 22.46 0.12 0.03 0.33 0.34 0.21 0.06 0.07
Dec. 11 38.24 0.19 0.04 0.31 0.35 0.21 0.06 0.08
Dec. 4 38.93 0.43 0.05 0.42 0.40 0.22 0.06 0.12
Nov. 27 41.03 0.71 0.07 0.47 0.42 0.27 0.04 0.12
Nov. 15 42.99 1.03 0.10 0.55 0.67 0.31 0.07 0.29
Nov. 9 69.97 1.31 0.18 0.53 0.66 0.33 0.10 0.23
Oct. 30 79.02 1.60 0.36 0.95 0.99 0.37 0.15 0.46
Oct. 24 52.20 1.13 0.79 0.87 0.83 0.33 0.13 0.37
Oct. 16 55.93 1.16 0.36 0.48 0.45 0.19 0.04 0.22
Oct. 10 51.34 1.88 0.78 0.34 0.35 0.10 0.03 0.22
Oct. 4 57.85 1.78 0.31 0.48 0.39 0.10 0.02 0.27
Sep. 25 39.94 0.77 0.08 0.44 0.41 0.12 0.05 0.23

The harvest season will begin at noon on Monday, Oct. 2, 2023.

Harvest totals

Values are in pounds. (See previous seasons.)

Date Lake Shore Salt Ponds Total
Jan. 30 16,996,726 11,412,757 230,849 28,640,332
Jan. 25

The 2023–24 brine shrimp harvest season will officially be closed on Jan. 31, 2024 at 5:43 p.m. MST (official sunset) in both the North and South Arms (lake and shore) pursuant to Rule R657-52-12. Harvest may continue on the salt ponds, but must still be reported to the UDWR in the same manner as during the regular season.

Please remember to remove all debris and trash from the shore and lake resulting from harvesting activity.

Jan. 23 15,471,883 11,338,570 227,089 27,037,542
Jan. 17 14,318,070 11,249,623 223,017 25,790,710
Jan. 8 14,287,718 11,119,795 208,465 25,615,978
Jan. 3 14,287,718 11,046,325 206,729 25,540,772
Jan. 1

Errors were discovered in the cumulative shore harvest reported for the harvest dates of Dec. 24 and 31. The corrected values from Dec. 23–Jan. 1 are given below, in pounds:

Harvest Date Cumulative Shore Cumulative Harvest
Dec. 23, 2023 10,526,456 23,343,315
Dec. 24, 2023 10,542,845 23,361,304
Dec. 25, 2023 10,564,184 23,382,643
Dec. 26, 2023 10,606,318 23,424,777
Dec. 27, 2023 10,673,944 23,747,309
Dec. 28, 2023 10,738,732 24,172,482
Dec. 29, 2023 10,807,555 24,566,410
Dec. 30, 2023 10,887,595 24,800,643
Dec. 31, 2023 10,951,315 25,198,111
Jan. 1, 2024 10,998,715 25,385,911
Dec. 19 11,776,905 10,424,216 203,289 22,404,410
Dec. 17 11,233,029 10,320,947 201,769 21,755,745
Dec. 11 10,255,292 10,009,706 180,454 20,445,452
Nov. 28 9,301,986 9,351,044 91,974 18,745,004
Nov. 28

Errors were discovered in the cumulative pond harvest reported for the harvest date of Nov. 21. The corrected values from Nov. 20–27 are given below, in pounds:

Harvest Date Cumulative Ponds Cumulative Harvest
Nov. 20, 2023 66,022 17,747,746
Nov. 21, 2023 69,614 17,906,289
Nov. 22, 2023 73,374 18,284,448
Nov. 23, 2023 79,014 18,345,725
Nov. 24, 2023 81,214 18,350,525
Nov. 25, 2023 84,758 18,383,261
Nov. 26, 2023 88,502 18,462,611
Nov. 27, 2023 89,830 18,536,191
Nov. 19 8,701,768 8,936,228 59,398 17,697,394
Nov. 14 8,211,175 8,553,070 50,998 16,815,243
Nov. 10

Errors were discovered in the cumulative shore harvest reported for the harvest date of Nov. 10. The corrected values from Nov. 9–12 are given below, in pounds:

Harvest Date Cumulative Shore Cumulative Harvest
Nov. 9, 2023 7,943,533 15,151,738
Nov. 10, 2023 8,066,719 15,402,715
Nov. 11, 2023 8,215,702 15,758,365
Nov. 12, 2023 8,333,431 16,167,706
Nov. 1 5,831,315 6,852,109 35,038 12,718,462
Oct. 30

Errors were discovered in the cumulative shore and pond harvest reported for harvest dates Oct. 9 and 26–28. The corrected values from Oct. 8–29 are given below, in pounds:

Harvest Date Cumulative Shore Cumulative Ponds Cumulative Harvest
Oct. 1, 2023 0 0 0
Oct. 2, 2023 119,950 0 119,950
Oct. 3, 2023 400,316 0 400,316
Oct. 4, 2023 672,096 0 965,516
Oct. 5, 2023 932,436 0 1,600,444
Oct. 6, 2023 1,186,422 0 2,208,028
Oct. 7, 2023 1,469,494 0 2,783,273
Oct. 8, 2023 1,755,079 0 3,391,815
Oct. 9, 2023 1,959,829 1,670 3,841,285
Oct. 10, 2023 2,170,248 2,766 4,087,469
Oct. 11, 2023 2,305,598 2,766 4,222,819
Oct. 12, 2023 2,504,968 4,022 4,423,445
Oct. 13, 2023 2,766,811 4,022 4,719,569
Oct. 14, 2023 3,032,041 9,190 5,158,760
Oct. 15, 2023 3,286,841 9,190 5,702,797
Oct. 16, 2023 3,531,061 9,190 6,308,173
Oct. 17, 2023 3,759,517 10,910 7,037,880
Oct. 18, 2023 4,023,245 10,910 7,437,413
Oct. 19, 2023 4,322,938 10,910 7,941,294
Oct. 20, 2023 4,571,013 10,910 8,504,811
Oct. 21, 2023 4,780,038 10,910 9,182,209
Oct. 22, 2023 5,027,983 10,910 9,670,057
Oct. 23, 2023 5,230,433 10,910 9,888,628
Oct. 24, 2023 5,521,693 10,910 10,420,335
Oct. 25, 2023 5,787,753 10,910 10,686,395
Oct. 26, 2023 5,945,619 17,050 10,850,401
Oct. 27, 2023 6,090,189 21,590 11,095,799
Oct. 28, 2023 6,270,179 24,190 11,278,389
Oct. 29, 2023 6,426,289 26,798 11,437,107
Oct. 26 4,887,732 5,951,029 11,640 10,850,401
Oct. 17 3,267,453 3,761,187 9,240 7,037,880
Oct. 10 1,914,455 2,171,918 1,096 4,087,469
Oct. 5 668,008 932,436 0 1,600,444

Want to learn more? Listen to the DWR "Wild" podcast!

DWR Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program Manager John Luft and DWR Conservation Officer Trevor Doman talk about the multi-million dollar industry on the Great Salt Lake that many people may not even be aware exists and how the DWR helps manage this unique resource.

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