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. capnmike

    First you dice and fry up some onions and green peppers, in a little olive oil. Add some chopped garlic, a couple of hot Italian sausages sliced, and your Giant Asian Tiger Shrimp (cut 'em up if they are too large) , and stir-fry until the shrimp and sausage slices are almost done...add some Picante sauce, finish cooking and serve over rice...That's some GOOD EATIN'...

    April 27, 2012 at 10:28 am | Report abuse |
    • Canuk

      That's Jambalya!

      April 27, 2012 at 11:05 am | Report abuse |
  2. rickybobby

    @rika33 – these are WANTED immigrants and they're tasty...not to mention Paleo... I want a bushel for the weekend.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  3. Fiona

    The most horrific words for any ecosystem: "accidentally released."

    April 27, 2012 at 10:32 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jafar

    Hmmmm. I can already see it: Soon in theaters near you "Attack of the Giant Shrimp" 🙂
    I also agree. I think they will be good on the grill.

    April 27, 2012 at 10:34 am | Report abuse |
  5. D

    Just call Buba Gump he'll know what to do with all the shrimp!! shrimp gumbo, shrimp caserole, fried shrimp, BBQ shrimp.... mmmh mmhhh

    April 27, 2012 at 10:42 am | Report abuse |
  6. Homer Simpson

    MMmmmmm... delicious invasion!

    April 27, 2012 at 10:50 am | Report abuse |
  7. jamest

    The earth has been doing this type of thing to its self millions of years and man came around and since then anything that happens with mother earth can not be nature anylonger just because the cancerous man has to thro his name in the mix, humans are cancer to the earth our planet is fixing to put its self thru a lagre dose of chemo in order to get rid of the human population and start a recovery process.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:02 am | Report abuse |
  8. crazy media

    Another case of the media sensationalizing a story to make news. Way to go cnn.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:04 am | Report abuse |
  9. scriss

    @tartar – way to go! Taking one for the team!

    April 27, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse |
  10. sanjosemike

    I don't see why we can't have massive fishing and trapping campaigns. There are lots of hungry people. This could be the start of a fine industry. Lots of posters here agree. Just more food for us. I have never tasted them but some posters here have and say they are delicious and try to get them whenever they can. If I found them in a restaurant I'd order them for sure. I would also purchase them at Costco. Most people here said they taste like fine lobster.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:09 am | Report abuse |
  11. durundal

    Best it make its peace with its dear tentacled creator, and prepare to be dipped in butter and lemonjuice

    April 27, 2012 at 11:10 am | Report abuse |
    • YumYum

      Please pass the butter and an extra helping of Tiger Shrimp!

      April 27, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Billy

      Let these shrimp continue to eat up BP's mess so the Food Network can have a Giant Tiger Shrimp cookoff

      April 27, 2012 at 6:01 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Gaylord

    Is that all this story can come up with.
    I think the big fish will be happy with this news, and the big fisherman also...

    April 27, 2012 at 11:11 am | Report abuse |
    • jay

      Sorry that's all you could come up with. Some of us can imagine more: disease, extinction of other species, unforeseen changes in the ecosystem. If these things are huge, they eat huge amounts of something. Their presence could be devastating. And the story, which you denigrate, points out that they carry disease. Sounds like a possible catastrophe. Maybe not, but certainly the possibilities are there.

      April 27, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
    • noworries

      Oh and the government will raise your taxes to pay for the study....

      April 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Jamest297

    Put 'em on a leash and take 'em to your local street fair or for a walk in the park so that they can become one more domesticated exotic pet to annoy those around you.

    April 27, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse |
  14. Lucien Alexandre Marion


    It is a good thing that these giant shrimps are not poisonned and are good and healthy for humans "consommation". Also their prolifiration can become an important source of food protein that more and more will be needed in the world... as time goes by...It's a point of view but I hope they won't eat all what's around them... Merci-Thank you

    April 27, 2012 at 11:21 am | Report abuse |
  15. BigHwasdemo

    I want some and I want some now!

    April 27, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse |
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