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. Ibrahim al-banquet Salad (light on the dressing)

    Use Republicans as a food source for the giant cannibal shrimp which will solve two problems at once.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • bonama

      Like using the dems as a source to grow mushusrooms in.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • zodiac

      You sound as intelligent as Bubba for Forrest Gumo....... Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that's about it.

      April 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • Marcus

      Ahhh.... The typical "political" person who can't even read an article about shrimp without bashing someone. I guess during tonight's NFL draft, if someone falls down the draft boards, it will be the Republicans' or Democrats' or Tea Partys' or Independents' fault, huh?

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

    jim needs some help and a science class

    April 26, 2012 at 4:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. D

    They are kind of like Walmart...big giants eating up the smaller locals.

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


    April 26, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Bubba

    Cat food.

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


    April 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Darth Cheney

    Hmm, how then should we contain this sudden population explosion of extra large, succulent, juicy shrimp? Any ideas? I'm at a loss...

    April 26, 2012 at 4:19 pm | Report abuse |
  8. dazzle ©

    Check the 406 post fool.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  9. jimmymax

    Preying on other shrimp species is not cannibalism, no more than a bass eating a minnow. CNN probably thinks whales are a type of fish.

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

      so they won't get mad shrimp disease

      April 26, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mourning

    Not banasy.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
  11. lroy

    In theory, I suppose you could keep just about any animal as a pet...if you had the time room money and resources; may need a permit for the more exotic-dangerous ones. You can even "adopt" Siberian tigers if you wanted too (I'd rather they stay at my house for the night). You would probably have to build a special kind of tank (not just the average kind for fish).

    April 26, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Nik

    These little guys sound yummy.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Texan

    Good eatin....good eatin....

    April 26, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  14. waveho

    Finally... a tasty invasive critter!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
  15. dazzle ©

    Nothing better to do Kenny when you are home sick with the flu.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Report abuse |
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