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. DIEGO

    godzilla vs giant asian tiger shrimp

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

      win!

      April 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ted

    13 inch shrimp? I don't see the problem...

    April 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mb2010a

    If they're cannibalistic, won't they just eat themselves out of existence?

    April 26, 2012 at 3:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Glen

    This should not be a problem, humans can over fish anything, so lets start over fishing these things and eat till they are gone!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Oh Well

    Not if you are an X-Shrimp!

    April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  6. pico

    give me that Giant cannibal shrimp so i can do some cannibalistic stuff on them

    April 26, 2012 at 3:57 pm | Report abuse |
  7. James

    The subject of the next SYFY original movie.

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

    Well if you want them gone put Ted Nugent on it.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Randall Norris

    Will they eat tea party stand your ground types? If they do, turn more of them loose!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. DIEGO

    they simply escaped china. just tell china about free shrimp and they will eat them or anything to extinction

    April 26, 2012 at 4:02 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jim

    Wake up people. Global Warming is real! A couple of months ago CNN reported about a species of bird getting bigger, now giant shrimp are thriving in new places. Animals will continue to get bigger in size because we keep recycling the CO2 from the ancient plant matter in the ground back into the air where today's plants consume it and grow. This provides more food for animals which will create larger herbivores which will create larger carnivores in an evolution type arms race much like what happened in the Dinosaur age when animals were gigantic and CO2 was 10 times the level now. Eat lots of shrimp and don't worry about your cholesterol because human's days at the top of the food chain are numbered

    April 26, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rex Riley

      Ok, I'm 'awake.' Now what?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Bob

      had a little to much acid this morning have we?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Mervin

    I'm gonna catch me some BIG BIG JUMBO ass shrimp! Butter and Shrimp I say....mmm....mmm....mmm

    April 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • lroy

      What, no garlic?

      April 26, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JuneCleaversBeaver

    You may as well blame Bush and Chaney if you're going to blame BP.
    With zeros like you voting we haven't a chance.
    Please don't procreate. The gene pool is shallow enough already.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dazzle ©

    You are not cracking anyone up oh fake one. Why don't you take about 5 of these mutants and shove them in your face.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  15. BABA BOOEY

    Munch munch munch, boff I love shrimp! do you have any orange juice?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • fritz

      Me too! Too bad someone mentioned they were 'edible'. The cannibal shrimp are now doomed. Let's grab them whle they last! Yummy!

      April 26, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
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