TPWD Warns Anglers About Virus from Imported Bait Shrimp

AUSTIN – With many people getting out their rod and reel for summer fishing trips, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department (TPWD) wants to warn all anglers to only use bait shrimp native to the Gulf of Mexico when fishing in fresh or salt water.

Shrimp is a popular choice to use for bait, but not all shrimp species can safely (or legally) be used. Never use “imported” shrimp as bait.

“If people fishing use imported shrimp as bait, they could introduce a deadly virus known as white-spot syndrome virus to native crustacean (shrimp, crabs and crayfish) populations. If the virus is introduced via infected shrimp, it could wipe-out the crustaceans and have devastating consequences for the entire ecosystem,” said TPWD Coastal Fisheries biologist Robert Adami.

While not harmful to humans when eaten, the white-spot syndrome virus can survive the freezing process and therefore does not die when imported shrimp is packaged for shipment to food stores.

“Imported shrimp found at food stores or even in bait shops that is not from the Gulf of Mexico should never be used as bait. This includes shrimp from other countries like Thailand or Venezuela or from other non-Gulf states like California,” said Adami.

Another reason to never use imported shrimp as bait is because it is against the law. Introducing imported shrimp to the aquatic environment is illegal under Texas law, regardless of whether it is alive or dead, whole or in pieces. If you are unsure of the origin of the shrimp you plan to use as bait, do not use it.

Federal law requires that imported shrimp be labeled with the country of origin and method of production (wild or farmed). Check the label when purchasing shrimp and look for a label verifying it is Gulf of Mexico shrimp. Labels can sometimes be confusing, so if you are unsure, please ask your provider.

For more information on fishing with bait shrimp, visit