Scientists: Giant cannibal shrimp invasion growing
This black tiger shrimp was caught in 210 feet of water off the coast of Louisiana.
April 26th, 2012
02:20 PM ET

Scientists: Giant cannibal shrimp invasion growing

An invasion of giant cannibal shrimp into America's coastal waters appears to be getting worse.

Researchers from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday that sightings of the massive Asian tiger shrimp, which can eat their smaller cousins, were 10 times higher in 2011 than in 2010.

“And they are probably even more prevalent than reports suggest, because the more fisherman and other locals become accustomed to seeing them, the less likely they are to report them,” said Pam Fuller, a USGS biologist.

The shrimp, which can grow to 13 inches long, are native to Asian and Australian waters and have been reported in coastal waters from North Carolina to Texas.

They can be consumed by humans.

"They're supposed to be very good. But they can get very large, sorta like lobsters," Fuller said.

While they may make good eatin' for people, it's the eating the giant shrimp do themselves that worries scientists.

"Are they competing with or preying on native shrimp," Fuller asked. "It's also very disease-prone."

To try to get those answers, government scientists are launching a special research project on the creatures.

“The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems,” NOAA marine ecologist James Morris said in a statement. “Our efforts will include assessments of the biology and ecology of this non-native species and attempts to predict impacts to economically and ecologically important species of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.”

Scientists are uncertain how many of the giant shrimp are in U.S. waters.

In 1998, about 2,000 of the creatures were accidentally released from an aquaculture facility in South Carolina. Three hundred of those were recovered from waters off South Carolina, Georgia and Florida within three months.

Farming of the giant shrimp ended in the United States, but they were caught again off Alabama, North Carolina, Louisiana and Florida.

Five were caught off Texas last year, according to Tony Reisinger, country extension agent for the Texas Sea Grant Extension Service.

Scientists don't know if  there is a breeding population in U.S. waters. Tiger shrimp females can lay 50,000 to a million eggs, which hatch within 24 hours.  Or the shrimp may be carried here by currents or in ballast tanks of marine vessels.

The latest study will look at the DNA of collected specimens.

“We’re going to start by searching for subtle differences in the DNA of Asian tiger shrimp found here – outside their native range – to see if we can learn more about how they got here,” USGS geneticist Margaret Hunter said in a statement. “If we find differences, the next step will be to fine-tune the analysis to determine whether they are breeding here, have multiple populations, or are carried in from outside areas.”

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Filed under: Aquaculture • Shrimp • Texas
soundoff (531 Responses)
  1. Mr. Scott

    Another accident from a fish hatchery... Are we surprised?

    April 26, 2012 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Marine5484

    Finally! An invasive species that will taste great with garlic and butter!

    April 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Big man

    Maybe Red Lobster will catch them and bring back the ALL YOU CAN EAT SHRIMP deal! :)

    April 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Roger B.

    I see no reason for alarm. Itis what humans are doein to themselves that should worry us. I humans keep multiplying at the present rate, by 2500 there will not be enough food for all. Them the largest of us will be eating their smaller cusins-just as the giant shrimp does.

    April 26, 2012 at 11:27 pm | Report abuse |
  5. NorCalMojo

    makes a good headline anyway

    April 26, 2012 at 11:35 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Quid Malmborg in Plano TX

    I seriously want to try one of these things now. When will they hit the grocery stores?

    April 26, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Janice

    I have butter and garlic.. I will happily do my part to control their numbers!!

    April 26, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. southsside mike

    Grill Baby, Grill

    April 27, 2012 at 12:10 am | Report abuse |
  9. sugarbear

    W0w Did the oil spill really do this mess or did we do it with our thoughtless poluting generation of children? you decide...

    April 27, 2012 at 12:14 am | Report abuse |
  10. Benjamin Buford Blue

    Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:27 am | Report abuse |
    • jross

      Thanks for clearing that up Forrest.

      April 27, 2012 at 1:48 am | Report abuse |
  11. dude

    Release the Kraken!!

    April 27, 2012 at 12:28 am | Report abuse |
  12. Piyaski

    you worry too much if you worry this.

    April 27, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
  13. Janice

    confused about one thing.. Are these "Shrimp" or "Prawns"? While they taste about the same, 2 different species??

    April 27, 2012 at 12:41 am | Report abuse |
  14. Belhade

    That thing is just begging for a giant plate of fettuccine alfredo...

    April 27, 2012 at 12:44 am | Report abuse |
  15. thebeast

    So that means they should be a lot cheaper at Whole Foods...

    April 27, 2012 at 12:49 am | Report abuse |
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