Disease is another potential problem. In 1995, shrimp farms along the Texas Gulf Coast were hit by the Taura syndrome virus, which killed thousands of farmed shrimp. Biologists and anglers feared the virus might devastate wild shrimp, an important part of the marine food chain. Later tests indicated Taura couldn't infect wild stocks, says Mike Ray, director of coastal fisheries at the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. But the larger problem still exists. Raised in 5- to 10-acre ponds holding tens of thousands of them, the shrimp are in "a stressful, feedlot environment of sorts," Ray says, one ripe for the growth and spread of disease.