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. Shuffler

    Well so much for calling anyone a shrimp.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Mr Dalloway

    It's times like this I wish I wasn't allergic to shellfish.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Larry

      Oh, c'mon, that's a little shellfish of you, don't you think?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Don't be so crabby.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Thermion7

    just for the Halibut

    April 26, 2012 at 3:20 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Thermion7

    He didn't do it on porpoise

    April 26, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Gromit

    We just need to start eating them. Humans can eat anything into extinction.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  6. MrMotoMike

    Anyone ever see the 1959 film "The Tingler"with Vincent Price? 'nuff said....

    April 26, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • GreedyGussie

      Yes. That thing does kinda look like the Tingler. I still remember that bath tub full of blood – disgusting!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. spence

    By crikey, that's a big shrimp! Imagine the shishkabobs–what a picture that would be.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Dwayne

    Food – let's start gathering them up. The weak get eaten by the strong. Fishermen – get to work and start hauling those babies in and create a whole new industry – Giant Shrimp

    April 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Richard

    Just catch and eat the things. Who cares which shrimp dominate?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jj

    Giant shrimp – an oxymoron

    April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Captain Obvious

    I read the headline as "Giant Cannabis Shrimp" and got excited for a second.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Guy Christman

    Hopefully they are hardy enough to live in the oily mess in the gulf.

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

    speak up i'm a little hard of herring

    April 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
  14. RS

    These are very tasty. For once, we have a invasive species we can enjoy.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • sdhgjhgf

      The problem with an invasive species is that the ecosystem might not be able to sustain them. They throw the ecosystem out of balance and the species they eat may no longer be around to sustain them in which case they themselves die off. Just nature taking it's course I suppose.

      Definitely curious what they would taste like in a crayfish boil. As big as lobsters and no pincers!

      April 26, 2012 at 3:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. noel

    The shrimp may stay...YUM!!! B.O. must go, peeyew!!!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • phunk

      Wow, so desperate and weak. Your post = massive fail.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • DJ Reality

      Here we go again another conservative meatball injecting politics into a non-political story. Boy you guys just need to pout off don't you.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:54 pm | Report abuse |
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