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. Duck amok

    Put an unlimited season out on them. That should put a dent in the population.

    April 27, 2012 at 8:54 am | Report abuse |
  2. Atomico

    They shrink when you cook them.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  3. Jose

    OH MY GOODNESS!!! Let's catch those suckers and put them in my belly!!!!

    April 27, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
  4. Logic

    Well I propose we start eating them to keep them under control. I bet we (humans) could make them extinct if we put our minds to it...

    April 27, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • m

      ha! Brilliant.

      April 27, 2012 at 9:24 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dnuts

    Can I have 24 of those Shrimps delivered to my house everyday?

    April 27, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. m

    Makes me glad I'm a vegetarian, though I'm sure someone will enjoy sliding a 13" prawn down their throat.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Q

      007 actually prefers these when he's tied one on. Harumph.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  7. bubbagump

    Why is this still an issue? I read another article months ago about this same thing. Just catch em and eat em! I a huge fan of shrimp. ALL shrimps. What do I need to do to get these "invaders" on my plate??

    April 27, 2012 at 9:26 am | Report abuse |
    • Hybridhor

      Any introduction of a non-native species throws of the eco-system. It has happened throughout recorded history of how this has caused mass problems. ie. the plague killed of 2/3 the european population from rats carrying the plague that got transported by ships. Australia had issues with other non-native species.

      Even back in the early nineties when asian ladybugs were brought to north america. Our house became infested with them in the curtains. And those nasty critters bite!!

      April 27, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
    • abdulla oblongata

      soon you will only have one giant shrimp to eat. I like the "jumbo" shrimp just the way they are now.

      April 27, 2012 at 9:53 am | Report abuse |
  8. Yum

    Fried shrimp is the only seafood I like, jumbo size them into a lobster? I say yes! Guess the shrimper's complaining about the BP oil spill will have more work than they ever dreamed thanks to these big guys!

    April 27, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    Another reason to declare war on non-native species in order to obtain funding and ensure job security. Throughout history there has been migrations, both natural and non-natural spread of species. Just think of the Europeans landing in North America from across the oceans...can you reverse that?

    April 27, 2012 at 9:30 am | Report abuse |
  10. Tony

    Feed them to the homeless.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:33 am | Report abuse |
  11. ed

    So what's the problem? Bigger shrimp.... yum!

    April 27, 2012 at 9:38 am | Report abuse |
  12. Boo Hoo

    Good Goh... Why are they even complaining? There is one good thing that will come out of this: Price. More shrimps mean less price and better food to eat...

    April 27, 2012 at 9:41 am | Report abuse |
    • CL

      Except these giant shrimp prey on and outcompete the native, smaller shrimp for food. If these tiger shrimp cause a drop in population of regular shrimp, then many species of fish (drum, redfish, trout, croakers, etc) that we love to fish for and eat will have less to eat, causing their populations to drop. I don't see a 12" trout being able to eat a shrimp thats just as big as the fish.

      April 27, 2012 at 10:21 am | Report abuse |
  13. Andrew

    tiger shrimp are delicious, let's just have a national shrimp on the barbie day

    April 27, 2012 at 9:42 am | Report abuse |
  14. Arthur

    I'm going to see if I can find some to cook tonight, looks like good eatin to me.

    April 27, 2012 at 9:45 am | Report abuse |
  15. KP

    Just harvest them!!!!! I was given 5lbs (2-3 shrimp per pound. lol) from a shrimper here locally in florida and they taste just like lobster if not better!

    April 27, 2012 at 9:52 am | Report abuse |
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