Energy and Environment Reporting for Texas

Tiger Prawns Roar into the Gulf of Mexico

Photo Courtesy of Jim Gossen, Louisiana Foods - Global Seafood Source

An Asian Tiger Prawn caught last September near Little Lake in Larose, LA

The Asian Tiger Prawn can grow over a foot long. It’s a species from the Western Pacific Ocean that first showed up off the coast of Alabama in 2006, when a single, solitary prawn was reported. If the story ended there, we wouldn’t have much to talk about.

But it doesn’t.

“The next year in 2007, you had some pop up in Louisiana just one or two, in 2008, three or four, [and in] 2009 a couple,” Leslie Hartman, the Matagorda Bay Ecosystem leader with Texas Parks and Wildlife, told Stateimpact Texas.

But that was just the start.

“Suddenly, this past August when we opened our fall in-shore shrimp season the numbers suddenly exploded. We have gotten over 100 reports of Tiger prawns,” said Martin Bourgeois, a Marine Fisheries Biologist with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

Bourgeois says for every report he receives there are probably three or four tiger prawn catches that go unreported. This last year reports started coming in from Texas.

“In Texas we’ve only had reports so far in our offshore waters,” said Hartman. ” We expect that we will be catching some inside of our bays in the near future. We haven’t so far, and that’s a good thing for Texas Shrimp.”

Why is that a good thing? For one, the Tiger Prawns’ diet is a lot like humans. It likes to eat shrimp.

“So we have some concerns that they’ll be active predators on our shrimp and crabs,” said Hartman.

There are still a lot of unknowns. But some researchers worry that the prawns will introduce new shrimp diseases to the ecosystem.

Yet the prawns are reportedly delicious. Louisiana’s Marty Bourgeouis says that has its upside.

“I’ve seen Tiger Prawns in the seafood case, priced at $20 a pound. And then I turn around and look at fresh shrimp a kiosk in that same supermarket priced at $5.99 a pound,” said Bourgeois.

Though marketing the prawns could have a downside.

“That might be nice for the shrimpers, but it wont be nice for the ecology. Our fish are not designed to eat foot-long shrimp,” Hartman said.

For the time being shrimpers don’t seem to be selling the tiger prawns they’ve run into. “Nobody has brought them in to be sold. Most [shrimpers] will keep them for themselves or show them or give them to some of their friends or maybe eat them on the boat. They’re not keeping them to where there’s a market for them,”Jim Gossen, CEO of Houston-based Louisiana Foods told Stateimpact Texas.

“You know it’s alarming though, to find out that they’re continuing to spread through the Gulf in more areas,” Gossen added.

Texas Parks and Wildlife’s Hartman says the first step to containing the tiger prawns is to figure out where they came from. To that end, researchers are conducting genetic testing.

For shrimpers who end up catching a tiger prawn and want to eat it, Hartman had these words of compromise: “In all honesty I just need a little bit of the tissue. So if some people are saying “Hey I just would rather eat it!” Let’s talk. We can make a deal, I’ll just take a little bit of the tissue and you can go ahead and boil them up,” she said.

Hartman believes genetic testing will yield some answers by the end of this year about how the prawns got to the Gulf.


  • David Bruneau

    I don’t like this at all.They have no natural predators here and eat native gulf shrimp.What other problems will they bring?

    • Stephen Hoenig

      So long as foreign vessels continue empty their blige water in American waters we will continue to have invasion of species with no natural predators.

    • Daimlerxxxx

      Sure they do. The natural predators are the humans….we eat them. Usa have found a new export winner. We can sell them to the asians for a good ton of money coz the asians love to eat them

  • Rudy Haugeneder, Canada.

    A Jelly fish explosion and now a giant foot-long shrimp explosion. Neither, as David Bruneau points out in the case of the Tiger Prawns, have natural enemies, meaning they are the equivalent of the Asia Carp explosion that is destroying Americans rivers and may soon swamp the Great Lakes.
    One way or another, it is us — seven billion of us compared to just 450 million at the time of Columbus — that causes this.  And it is too late to reverse the damage.

  • Tigerprawns

    sell it for 5.99 a pound.

  • Kissmybums

    The tsunami washed them over

  • Kaoskode

    if it makes you guys feel any better there are Large mouth Bass in japan doing the same thing to their native species so maybe one day we ill be selling them the same seafood they invaded us with. but I still dont like it. Oh David don’t worry we have plenty of fish that will eat them back in the lates 70′s we used to catch white shrimp at the jetty’s in our cast nets that size over fishing killed them off.

  • Gary Simmons

    Leslie Hartman has her facts wrong about our fish not being able to eat foot long shrimp. They eat much bigger prey than that were she or anyone else gets off saying such a thing is just plain crazy. And for those either to young to know or not living on the coast during the 70′s and back. We use to catch native shrimp as large as a foot long. I caught them that size with cast nets from the south Galveston jetties all the time until the mid late seventies then over shrimping ended that. Its clear that they are established and are not going away so we and the trout, Red Fish, Sharks, Black drum will eat them. Lets just hope they do not eradicate the native species.

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