Up to 6 Months in Jail for Collecting Brine Shrimp Eggs without a Permit

According to Utah Code 23-20-3, without a permit, tag, or other type of registration, a person may face up to 6 months in jail and an $800 fine if they” commercially harvest protected wildlife, including brine shrimp and brine shrimp eggs.”

Seafood harvesting in Utah?

Brine Shrimp Eggs

Photo by: Saul Dolgin

Collecting seafood may be something that is typically conducted along coastal states; however the Great Salt Lake has its own salt water ecosystem that is home to millions of pounds of brine shrimp. According to the Great Salt Lake Ecosystem Program “Brine shrimp [commonly known as the Sea Monkeys] are crustaceans that inhabit salty waters around the world, both inland and on the coast. ( . . . ) Although small, they serve as an essential food source for millions of birds that breed or stopover at the Great Salt Lake during migration [;] and, in recent years, these shrimp support a multi-million dollar commercial harvest.”

Collecting brine shrimp eggs

The brine shrimp that inhabit the Great Salt Lake were discovered in the early 1950’s and used as food for larger fish. After a few years of harvesting the adult brine shrimp, harvesters noted the adults were dying off quickly in the fall but leaving behind cysts of brine shrimp eggs that were extremely durable. Harvesters quickly ceased collecting the adult shrimp, only to collect the brine shrimp eggs during the annual winter harvests and clean and ship them off around the world. The harvest for brine shrimp eggs usually lasts between October and January.

Protecting a resource

Photo by:
Liji Jinaraj

Once world was spread of the brine shrimp eggs in the Great Salt Lake, something had to be done to protect this saltwater resource. Each year, there are less than 80 permits issued to companies that harvest brine shrimp eggs. Along with the permit is the agreement that those companies will pay the state royalties in what the Brine Shrimp Royalty Act (59-23-3) defines as “3.75 cents multiplied by the total number of pounds of unprocessed brine shrimp eggs that the person harvests within the state during the tax year.”

Trouble ahead for egg collectors

As the shores of the Great Salt Lake continue to recede, the number of permits may decrease while penalties may rise for those who collect brine shrimp eggs without a permit. As it stands now, collecting brine shrimp eggs commercially can result in a class B misdemeanor if done without a permit. The Utah Department of Natural Resources R657-52-3 adds “A person [not with a company] may not harvest, possess, or transport brine shrimp or brine shrimp eggs without first obtaining a certificate of registration” or they may face a class C misdemeanor. For more information regarding fishing,hunting, or wildlife laws in general, contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources. For assistance with legal charges, speak with an attorney immediately.