A breeding population of giant tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) may be established off the southeastern coast of the United States and in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 1988, nearly 300 tiger shrimp (Penaeus monodon) were collected off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida after an accidental release of roughly 2,000 animals from the Waddell Mariculture Center in South Carolina. It’s doubtful if this release has had anything to do with the increase in P. monodon catches that began in 2006 when six monodon were collected in USA waters. In 2007, four were collected, in 2008 (21), in 2009 (47), in 2010 (32)—and in 2011 (273)! Monodon has now been found from North Carolina to Texas. The first documented collections in Mississippi and Texas occurred in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
The last attempt to culture tiger shrimp in the United States occurred in Florida in 2004, but a successful harvest was not achieved, and there were no reports of escapes.
No one knows the origin of the recent captures in United States waters. Their occurrence is most likely explained by escapement from shrimp farms following flooding by storms and hurricanes. Temperature is an important environmental variable that influences the survival and dispersal of wild P. monodon. Fishermen on the Atlantic coast of South America from Guyana to Colombia and off the coast the Dominican Republic in the Caribbean Sea occasionally report catches of monodon.
Currently, their impact on the native fauna is uncertain; however, monodon is an aggressive predator of soft-bodied organisms, like juvenile crabs, shrimp, bivalves and snails, and could become a competitor of native shrimp.
A team of researchers from the United States Geological Service, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and several independent scientists is currently attempting to discover the source of the monodon that are appearing along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. In the fall of 2011, they began gathering specimens and archiving tissue for genetic analyses.