Florida Sea Grant Extension in Collier County

Welcome to the Collier County Sea Grant Extension Blog

This blog is an opportunity for me to share with you my extension outreach efforts and useful information to make you a more informed coastal citizen. If you have any questions about what you see, feel free to contact me at fluech@ufl.edu.

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Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tiger Shrimp in the Gulf

Image credit: Texas Sea Grant
A recent newsmaker around Florida and the Gulf has been the  growing presence of the Black or Giant Tiger Prawn(GTP)-Penaeus mondon. I wanted to share some information I obtained from my colleagues with Texas Sea Grant so that you are better informed about this marine invasive species.

What We Know

 The GTP is a commonly cultured species and native to SE Asia.

GTP is the second most widely cultured prawn species in the world. It was recently surpassed by the whiteleg shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei. In 2009, 770,000 tonnesof tigers were produced, with a total value of US$3,650,000,000.

In 2010, Greenpeace added GTP to its seafood red list – "a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries". The reasons given by Greenpeace were "destruction of vast areas of mangroves in several countries, over-fishing of juvenile shrimp from the wild to supply farms, and significant human rights abuses"

Females can reach approximately 33 centimeters (13 in) long, but are typically 25–30 cm (10–12 in) long and weight 200–320 grams (7–11 oz); males are slightly smaller at 20–25 cm (8–10 in) long and weighing 100–170 g (3.5–6.0 oz) Larger specimens have been recently reported.

 An major theory of introduction is they were suspected to be cultured in the Dominican Republic and may have escaped there in 2005 when the ponds were breached during a hurricane. Other source theories are ballast water and intentional release.

 GTP are nocturnal and diurnal, aggressive, cannibalistic, competes with our native shrimp for food and habitat, and eats fish bivalves and possibly oysters.

 Several ~ 6” black tigers have been caught in the Gulf and on the East Coast leading us to believe it is reproducing. 

 Shrimp farmers have reported an established population off Belize, but this is not scientifically documented.

Image credit Texas Sea Grant
History of Giant Tiger Shrimp in the U.S.
South Carolina was raising them at the Waddell Mariculture Center in the late 1980s.

An escape from the facility occurred and fishermen off the Carolinas began catching them in 1988.

Many individuals were caught that same year and until 1991, as far south as St Augustine FL.

No more catches were reported until 2006.

Over 200 catches in the Gulf have been noted since 2006. The total actual catch now may be around a thousand individuals.

This species has now been caught in all the Southeastern states from North Carolina to Texas.

Many Questions Still Exist
 Are GTP reproducing, where and what is the impact?

 Will GTP increase in population with climate change over time in the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico and if so, to what extent?

Will they outcompete our native white, brown and pink species?

 Dr Tom Shirely with the Harte Research Institute is concerned the greatest impact will be post larval and juvenile tigers competing for food and habitat with our native Penaeids. He says they may impact trophic cascades, altering the food web’s predator – prey interactions. Further implications could be virus, disease, and possible parasite introductions from tigers to our natives.

 Will they impact shellfish production such as clams and oysters?

  Can anything be done to combat this exotic introduction?

What Can You Do?
If you see a GTP, REPORT IT!
 Here in Florida, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has information on its website: FWC requests you report the size, date and location of the capture, preferably with the GPS coordinates, to Larry Connor at 352-357-2398 or ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. Fishermen also are asked to either keep the shrimp for collection or take photos of them for identification purposes

To learn more about the Giant Tiger Prawn click here


  1. I remember giant shirmp being raised experimentally in the Panama City area of Florida by a Japanese firm in the 1970's. I never saw any for sale commerically and I believe that their nets were destroyed during a hurricane (Eloise?). I don't know is this is the same species and that was a long time ago but a variety of giant shimp was released accidentally at that time. I don't know if any were ever reported caught by the local shrimpers and they may not have survived.

  2. An excellent summary -- thanks for posting!

  3. There should be a more effective ways of farm raising the tiger shrimp along with other farm raised invasive species to prevent them from escaping and causing protential harm to the ecosystems. What concerns me most is that they reproduce at an alarming rate as compared with the native shrimp. They are also cannibalistic and competes with the native shrimp for food. Hopefully the tiger shrimp does not wipe out the native shrimp and ways are discovered to mitigate any damage that they may cause.