Brown shrimp are incredibly common on shallow, sandy bottoms. At their summer peak you can get as many as 60 on a square metre of seabed. Their high numbers mean boom and bust for many populations.
There's no way to really avoid it, shrimps and prawns are scavengers. They play a vital role in the marine ecosystem, but it's probably not best to think to much about what they eat, just marvel in the fact that they manage to taste so sweet given their diet.
These are the only shrimp we’ll eat. Hand netted the old way. This form of fishing has pretty much died out, even in Morecambe Bay, where it was once famous. It’s a hard job and the pay ain’t great, in fact it's one fishery that declined more due to labour costs than population dynamics. We’ve got a guy in Dungeness who catches them just for us, as a favour more than anything.
Trawl fisheries for prawns have some of the highest rates of bycatch of any fishery, in the Caribbean it can be as much as 10kg of bycatch per kilo of prawns. That’s 10 kilos of turtles, sharks, seahorses, rays, dolphins...
Unfortunately prawn farming in South East Asia is also particularly unsustainable. Not only has it lead to the destruction of millions of acres of mangroves, but also really screws people over too.
EJF have done some great work on this. If you’re interested do have a look.
If you are going to eat prawns, do so as an occasional treat and please make sure they’re cold water trawled or farmed organically.
Pull the shell off and eat the rest. They’re insanely addictive. Best eaten out of a brown paper bag on a blustery promenade in the North West.
If you manage not to gobble them all up, then you can make a brown shrimp butter. It’s very easy and works brilliantly well with all fish, turning the 'fine' into 'mighty fine'.
Or try pocketing a flatfish and tucking them in the cavity with some herbs. mmmm