Asian Tiger Prawn Credit: LDWF
This summer the number of tigers is significantly on the rise, the giant tiger prawn that is. The giant tiger prawn (Penaeus monodon), a member of the Penaeidae, or shrimp family, is a relatively new invader showing up in the Gulf of Mexico, including Louisiana waters. The tiger prawn is native to Southeast Asia, the Philippines and Australia. Prawns reach over ten inches in length and weigh up to one-third of a pound, much larger than our native brown and white shrimp. The tiger prawn is easily recognizable due to the characteristic back and white banding on the tail. This species can survive in a wide range of salinity from 3-35 ppt and temperatures from 77 degrees F to 91 degrees F. The large invaders can be found in coastal estuaries, lagoons or mangrove areas; however adults can survive depths up to 110 meters. This species is known to occur either as a solitary species or in groups of 200 to 300. This nocturnal species burrows into sediments during the day and emerges at night to feed. Most of our native Louisiana shrimp are omnivorous scavengers, but the tiger prawn is more of a predator with a diet consisting of smaller shrimps, crabs, mollusk, and algae.
The giant tiger prawn is the most widely used species of the Penaeidae family for aquaculture. Coastal people in Asian countries have practiced shrimp farming as a livelihood for over a century. From steamed in Asian-style cuisine to a more southern favorite, deep-fried, tiger prawns have made their way into kitchens across the US. In 1988, a population of prawns escaped from a mariculture facility in Bluffton, South Carolina. Currently, the prawns are invasive in the Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, Eastern Caribbean, and waters surrounding the Hawaiian Islands. Tiger prawns have also been found in cultured populations of shrimp in Texas and South Carolina. The ecological consequences of introduction are currently unknown. If a population is established they could pose a threat to our native commercially important shrimp species. Here is Louisiana, the first giant tiger prawn was documented in 2007. Since then reported incidences have been low until the 2011 shrimp season. As the graph shows, over 30 reports have been made this year alone, up significantly from any other year.
Increase in Tiger Prawn Reports in Louisiana
You can do your part to help minimize the spread of this invasive species in our coastal waterways. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is monitoring giant tiger prawn occurrence in our coastal waters. If you catch a giant tiger prawn LDWF asks that you save the specimen (ice or refrigerate), record the location and contact an LDWF biologist at (225) 765-2949.
For additional information please visit the Sea Grant website http://www.seagrantfish.lsu.edu/biological/invasive/tigerprawn.htm
-Julie Anderson and Nikki Anderson