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The Pacific white shrimp

Introduction to the Pacific white shrimp

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Photo: NOAA

Pacific white shrimp

Photo: NOAA

The Pacific white shrimp, Litopenaeus vannamei, is native to the western Pacific coast of Latin America, from Peru to Mexico where water temperatures are normally over 70 degrees F throughout the year. It was introduced into Asia experimentally from 1978 to 1979, but commercially only since 1996 into Taiwan and China and subsequently to several countries in southeast and south Asia.

In 2008, 67 percent of the world production of cultured penaeid shrimp consisted of L. vannamei. Such dominance was attributed to an 18-fold increase of production in Asia. The commercial success of introducing L. vannamei into Asia can be attributed to its superior aquaculture traits compared with Penaeus monodon, the most popular cultured Asian penaeid. These include higher availability of genetically selected viral-pathogen-free domesticated broodstock, high larval survival, faster growth rate, better tolerance to high stocking density, lower dietary protein requirement, more efficient utilization of plant proteins in formulated diets, stronger adaptability to low salinity, better tolerance to ammonia and nitrite toxicity, and lower susceptibility to serious viral pathogens infecting

Litopenaeus vannamei also known as the pacific white or whiteleg shrimp is native to the Pacific coast of Mexico southward to Peru. Whiteleg shrimps occur in tropical marine areas with water temperatures normally higher than 20ºC throughout the year. They are highly euryhaline and can withstand salinities ranging from 0 to 55ppt. Adults live and spawn in the open ocean whereas postlarvae migrate inshore to spend their juvenile, adolescent and sub-adult stages in coastal estuaries, lagoons or mangrove areas.

Throughout the tropics,from Latin America and Mexico to Southeast Asia, white shrimp has gained popularity with producers and consumers for it’s affordability. Mostly available in middle and smaller sizes.(though we are now seeing larger farm whites due to lower density and longer grow out phases), white shrimp are popular with retailers and chain restaurants. Their flavor is slightly sweeter than the Black Tiger and they don’t tend to turn a bright red when cooked (more slightly pink), white shrimp are great for pastas and rice dishes.

During the 20th century, L.vannamei was an important species for Mexican inshore fishermen, as well as for trawlers further offshore. In the late 20th century, the wild fishery was overtaken by the use of aquaculture; this began in 1973 in Florida using prawns captured in Panama. In Latin America, the culture of L. vannamei showed peaks of production during the warm El Niño years, and reduced production during the cooler La Niña years, due to the effects of disease. Production of L.vannamei is limited by its susceptibility to various diseases, including white spot syndrome, Taura syndrome, infectious hypodermal and haematopoietic necrosis, baculoviral midgut gland necrosis and Vibrio infections. By 2004, global production of L. vannamei approached 1,116,000 t, and exceeded that of Penaeus monodon.

In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the whiteleg shrimp to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is 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 shrimp farms, and significant human rights abuses".

In the United States, farmers in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Mississippi, South Carolina and Texas have successfully reared marine shrimp using low-salinty groundwater. The Pacific white shrimp,Litopenaeus vannamei is the species of choice of the shrimp farming industry in the western hemisphere. The species is found in waters with a wide salinity range (1 to 40 ppt). The high tolerance of L. vannamei to low salinity and the year-round availability of healthy post-larvae (PL) make this species an excellent candidate for inland farming.

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