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Media Contact: Steve Lightfoot, 512-389-4701, steve.lightfoot@tpwd.texas.gov [SL]

TPWD Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us

TPWD News Release — June 21, 2004

Outbreak of Exotic Virus Hits South Texas Shrimp Farms

AUSTIN, Texas — Four South Texas shrimp mariculture farms have been quarantined and are now prevented from discharging wastewater after tests confirmed that the exotic shrimp illness Taura Syndrome Virus killed shrimp at the facilities last week.

While the virus is not a threat to human health, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and other authorities are concerned about what might happen to wild, native shrimp stocks if the illness broke out in public waters.

The Taura syndrome was first detected in Texas shrimp farms in 1995. In 1998, TPWD helped lead efforts to set new regulations for shrimp farm disease monitoring and response, working with the industry and other agencies. This includes sampling and testing shrimp from every pond on all Texas facilities regularly. In addition, the industry created "Best Management Practices" in the late 1990s and began to use disease-resistant shrimp that significantly reduced the occurrence of disease.

Shrimp farm operators are cooperating fully with authorities to contain the current outbreak. TPWD is monitoring the current situation closely, working with federal authorities and the industry.

"The Department’s inspection program is operating just as anticipated and the farms in question are cooperating fully with us," noted Larry McKinney, Ph.D. and coastal fisheries director at TPWD. "Our staff are monitoring the current situation closely and responding in a manner to protect the natural resources of the State of Texas."

Texas shrimp farms are some of the largest in the country, with some five times more production acres than the second ranked state, South Carolina. Shrimp farmers prefer exotic species to natives because they do better in mariculture settings.

Exotic shrimp species can bring exotic diseases with them, but to prevent that from happening Texas shrimp farmers are required to stock their ponds with certified disease-free seed shrimp. Disease outbreaks are a primary concern for farm operators because they have the potential to wipe out an entire crop of shrimp. Previous episodes have caused economic hardship for operators, but no observable impacts were detected in wild stocks.

However, because these shrimp farms are located in coastal areas and there is the potential for disease transmission by birds, escapement, and other vectors there is concern that these diseases might affect native species.

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