Brine Shrimp harvest
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Brine shrimp
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Brine shrimp harvest

Collection methods

Winds and wave action tend to pile cysts on beaches, and harvesters rake, shovel, bag, and transport cysts by ATVs to waiting trucks or boats. This was the original harvest method, and still accounts for a large portion of the total product taken from the GSL.

Containment boom encircling a streak of brine shrimp cysts.

Brine shrimp cysts also accumulate into large floating mats. These floating mats are referred to as "streaks" or "slicks" and can be large enough to see from space. A spotter plane flies over the lake, identifying streaks and recording coordinates. Pilots radio coordinates to boats, which quickly move to the streaks and put out bright orange buoys to claim an area. Harvesters then deploy a floating containment device very similar to an oil containment boom that is used to encircle the streak. The cysts are then consolidated into a very small area and vacuum pumps are used to pump the cysts into 2,000 lb. filtration bags that rest on the deck of the boat the boat.

Brine shrimp harvesters pumping cysts and biomass onto their boat.

The contents of these bags is called "raw product", which goes through a pre-wash to get rid of broken shells, feathers and other debris. The processing of cysts prior to putting them on the marketplace involves a period of cold storage, washing them with freshwater to get rid of salt and debris, drying them, and vacuum sealing them in various containers. They are then graded based on hatch rates, and sold at increasing prices based on grade.

As the brine shrimp industry expanded, technology did as well. Technological advances in communication, Global Positioning Systems, night vision, airplane spotters, and 20+ hour harvest days increased harvest efficiency by around 4 times. This meant that a harvester was able to collect around 4 times the weight of cysts during a given time as compared to before these tools and knowledge were available.