GREAT SALT LAKE COLLABORATIVE

Great Salt Lake brine shrimp population increases as lake reaches healthy levels

Jun 11, 2023, 3:43 PM | Updated: 3:44 pm

The Great Salt Lake on Wednesday. Utah researchers say the lake may end up gaining 6 feet between N...

The Great Salt Lake on Wednesday. Utah researchers say the lake may end up gaining 6 feet between November and the end of spring but its long-term future is still in doubt unless drastic changes are made in water consumption. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

(Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

Editor’s note: This article is published through the Great Salt Lake Collaborative, a solutions journalism initiative that partners news, education and media organizations to help inform people about the plight of the Great Salt Lake — and what can be done to make a difference before it is too late.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s brine shrimp industry is breathing a sigh of relief, thanks to the rising water level of the Great Salt Lake. And, so is the shrimp industry in general — and those who eat shrimp.

In fact, Tim Hawkes, vice president of the Great Salt Lake Brine Shrimp Cooperative, said if you eat shrimp anywhere in the world there’s a 50-50 chance it was fed brine shrimp from the Great Salt Lake.

“Good average number is 45% of global supply,” Hawkes told KSL NewsRadio.

He said when the lake levels dropped amid the drought, the brine shrimp were stressed from large amounts of salinity and they produced lower-quality eggs. But things have turned around.

“The conditions are much better (now that) those salinity levels have come down,” Hawkes said.

One sure sign that lake levels are rising was the recent “crane day,” an event hosted by the Utah Division of State Parks on Tuesday, where large boats were again placed in the Great Salt Lake Marina.

“It’s just so exciting to have this much water in the lake,” said Jimmy Ludlow, of Salt Lake City, who watched as the boats were reinitiated to the water. “In the fall, this was just mud through the marina here. To have this much water and know more is coming — it’s really cool.”

That said, the lake has recovered only to the level it was at in 2020.

“We’re cautiously optimistic as we move forward, but we know there’s a lot of work that remains to be done,” said Hawkes.

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Great Salt Lake brine shrimp population increases as lake reaches healthy levels