Whiteleg shrimp (Litopenaeus vannamei)
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. Males reach a total length of 187mm and become sexual mature from 20g onwards. Females are bigger with a length of 230mm and reach sexual maturity from 28g onwards at the age of 6-7 months.
In the late 1970s and 1980s Litopenaeus vannamei was introduced to the Pacific coast of the Americas in the USA and Hawaii and to the Atlantic coast from Carolina on to Brazil in the south. Introductions of Litopenaeus vannamei to Asia started in 1978/79 first to the Philippines and later in the 1988s to China. Whiteleg shrimps breed well in captivity and can be stocked at small sizes. The species shows a fast growth at uniform rates and has relatively low protein requirements (20-25%). These features and the ability to adapt well to variable environmental conditions make the whiteleg shrimp highly suitable for farming. Litopenaeus vannamei is the predominant shrimp species farmed in the USA, Latin America and the Caribbean regions. The world's main producer of Litopenaeus vannamei is China with production levels of approximately 270,000 metric tonnes in 2002.