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. angel611

    Hey America, you brought them to the Atlantic ocean, now stop your whining.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:05 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Keel Hauler

    Ever hear of Mantis Shrimp? They have one of the fastest physical attacks in the living world. Little arms under their heads coil and then strike their prey at 10,000 G's of acceleration. They hit so hard and fast that the water boils (cavitates) in front of their limbs, releasing enough energy to cause a flash of light. They can crack a big crab's armor like nothing, and even break through 1/4- inch thick aquarium glass. Cool!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Butter & Garlic

      I have a pet one. Great colors, but stays in a cave unless he is hunting.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  3. davetharave

    They should be rounded up and slaughtered.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:06 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Butter & Garlic

    I hope they are tasty. Less work peeling them for a bigger, fatter shrimp. Darn those would go great on a grill with butter and garlic.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. bad2worse

    Uh-oh! Pretty soon there will 8000 pounders coming on shore and eating cars and people and buildings. Run for your lives, it's shrimpzilla!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  6. APIH

    LOL, Banasy... love how you brought chief inspector Jacques Clouseau into this :P

    April 26, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  7. TonyMontana1

    I luv dem scrimps. Fo real doe!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  8. darmonx

    off the coast of Texas and Louisiana.... BP oil spill mutation.. duh. what else can it be.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
  9. george

    Regular shrinp, Jumbo shrimp, and now, Giant shrimp. Let's fire up the grill and enjoy! People wail about the introduction of non native species but there is only one world...there are no non-native species. Let's eat them. Did you know that Burmese Python meat is tasty when cooked? News reports would have you think that the world is ending because of them in the everglades. Fry them up! Let's stop wringing our hands about the "destruction of niches" and rattle our Chow Chain.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • bad2worse

      humans are an invasive species

      April 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rad666

    i say let's have another huge oil spill and wipe them out.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bobcat (in a hat) ©

    Wonderful, wonderful news. First our seafood is affected by the oil spill. Now we have cannibal shrimp. Why don't we introduce more alien species into our environment ? I mean, what could possibly go wrong ?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Tanker4202

    Jumbo Shrimp is no longer an contradiction of terms...

    April 26, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Mark

    Does it sound paranoid of me, that I keep seeing all these "Asian" based invasive plants/animals in American region?

    1. Asian Carp in Illinois River

    2. Northern Snakehead in Maryland

    3. Asian Tiger Shrimp in South Carolina

    4. Kudzu in Georgia

    April 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • Informed99

      First thing you do before an invasion, acclimatize the local environment to match your own.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Douglas Quaid

      You forgot Asian people

      April 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • pozin

      5. Asian flu

      April 26, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • bspurloc

      MADE IN CHINA invasions?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      You forgot. %, Indonesian Mutt in White House. I don't care who you are, that's funny.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Flordagrl

    I saw one of those tiger shrimp a couple of months ago at a seafood shop. It had been caught in the bay off of Apalachicola, Florida. I wanted to buy it to fry it, but the guy wouldn't sell. He said they tasted like a cross between shrimp/lobster. I would like to try one but hopefully not at the cost of our native species.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Bobby B.

    Does anyone else remember the "Deep Thoughts" by Jack Handey on SNL back in the early 90's? There was one that said, "I think somebody should come up with a way to breed a very large
    shrimp. That way, you could ride him, then, after you camped at
    night, you could eat him. How about it, science?"

    April 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
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