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. Scottish Mama

    I say catch em and crab boil em. I think if the shrimp boats should catch all throw back the smaller cousins and sell the larger. Maybe we can shrimp them out of our waters.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. H Boyers

    Put them on the menu. They will be so over fished that they may end up on the endangered list.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Sharkman

    I I wanna see cannibal lobsters 4 feet long!!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Andy NJ

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

    Here we go with the government project, how much is this one going to cost.... just sayin.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jackson

      I'm not sure. Maybe the GAO can develop a cost study team to determine?

      April 26, 2012 at 3:52 pm | Report abuse |
  5. mesohungy

    This is a test that China is performing as a probing mission. Send in a team of shrimp to evaluate the situation and not to engage, make sure are all clear for the final chinese invasion.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  6. juice

    Well, let's fish more tiger shrimps. I love having tiger shrimps for dinner.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:38 pm | Report abuse |
  7. W8a2nd

    Super burgers, super fries? Why not super shrimp? And ok yes, you Texans can take credit for them too.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  8. erik

    Send in the asian carp. Lake Michigan has plenty by now I am sure.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm | Report abuse |
  9. DanoRoo

    How long do you have to boil them?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Depends on how many and how big the pot. I would try to boil them for 20 and take one out and take the segments off and try it. Trial and error.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Scottish Mama ain't cooking for me. Try boiling for 4-5 min. If you're doing a shrimp boil let the corn and potatoes cook then put the shrimp in the last 5 if you have this kind of shrimp. Regular shrimp last 2 min.

      April 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Scottish Mama

    I think shrimpers everywhere will make a haul this year on lbs of shrimp and make some money they may have lost with the oil spill.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:41 pm | Report abuse |
  11. CullThePopulace


    April 26, 2012 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • kron

      woooooow give this man a nobel prize!

      your comment is just as useless as mine.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
  12. alberto1

    Finally a problem in the Gulf that can't be blamed on Bush or BP. But wait, the Left can be mighty creative.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      Give me a

      April 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      It's all Bush's fault...not very creative, I know, but it will do.

      April 26, 2012 at 3:53 pm | Report abuse |
  13. opinion8it

    What to do about the "Giant Cannibal Shrimp" situiation? I'll tell you what to do.... pass that butter over here...

    April 26, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Scottish Mama

      MMMMMMMMMMMMMelted butter and shrimp.

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


      April 26, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
  14. paul

    “The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems,” – They are part of the ecosystem aren't they? Ecosystems can change.

    April 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andy

    Once again we screw with the base of the planet's food chain. How many times can we shoot ourselves in the foot before we have no feet left to stand on?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm | Report abuse |
    • mb2010a

      Republicans are wondering the same thing...

      April 26, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
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