Shrimp is commonly used as bait, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife warns that using non-Gulf crustaceans when fishing in Texas waters could be harmful.
Imported shrimp “may carry several known viruses or diseases that can be transmitted to native Gulf shrimp species (and other shellfish such as crabs and crawfish),” the TPW site explains. “Many of these viruses can survive the freezing process and therefore do not die when the imported shrimp is packaged for shipment to food stores.”
That includes popular frozen shrimp from places including Venezuela, Thailand or from non-Gulf states like California. Fishing with non-Gulf shellfish could cause considerable damage to both saltwater and freshwater environments in Texas ecosystems, since those species could be infected with a virus called White Spot Syndrome. This malady has not yet been introduced to Texas waters, but it has the potential to affect our native species.
That virus causes rapid mortality, within days, and can be spread to all kinds of shellfish. So while it’s not dangerous for human consumption, it could negatively impact Gulf creatures.
Another reason to avoid this practice is because it’s illegal. Introducing non-native shrimp to Texas fishing spots is against the law, regardless of whether it’s dead or alive. Federal law states that imported shrimp be labeled with their place of origin, so you avoid mistakenly using the wrong bait by checking its packaging.
For a quick reference, the most common Gulf shrimp that populate Texas are Brown Shrimp, Northern White Shrimp, Pink Shrimp and Mantis Shrimp, which is also known as Sea Lice.
Sea Lice doesn’t sound very appetizing, but it could be used to catch a tasty dinner.