Brine Shrimp Industry
The Great Salt Lake brine shrimp industry can trace its roots to a 1951 ad in The Aquarium from C.C. Sanders, who had experimented with feeding brine shrimp to his Siamese fighting fish and in the results saw a new industry. Once orders started rolling in, he discovered it was easier to harvest the cysts, rather than the live brine shrimp, which could then be cleaned, processed, stored, and later hatched into live young. The industry grew, the 1980s represented a series of ‘Wild West days’, with spotter-plane traffic growing so dangerous over the lake that the military decided to get involved with air traffic control. The state also decided to step in, after fears that the breakneck competition was going to shrimp the Lake dry. The state passed laws that would require commercial permits for brine shrimpermen beginning with the 1991/1992 season. Each permit would allow the operator a three boat operation, and when the number of permits were capped at 79 in 1996, the total fleet would also be capped. In addition, the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program (GSLEP) was established within the Division of Wildlife Resources to monitor shrimp populations in the Lake, funded by permitting fees and the royalties the fishermen paid to the state as a percentage of their catch. The GSLEP monitored population levels during the harvest season, and when the population density reached a certain threshold, eventually set at twenty-one cysts per liter, the season was over. The various commercial permit holders eventually coalesced into a cooperative.