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. blam

    Oh Nooooos

    April 26, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Baml

      I knoooooows!

      April 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  2. dazzle ©

    No thanks and you do realize I'm not fooled, don't you?

    April 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Jeff Frank (R-Ohio) "Right Wing Insanity"

    So what will the ruling class do? About as much as they did with the invasion of the Chinese carp in our inland waters....nothing!

    April 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Innkahoots

    If they are good to eat, and are now part of supply and demand, then I demand a supply. Hell yes...

    April 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
  5. spike

    The only thing I like better than diseased giant cannibalistic invasive shrimp... is more diseased giant cannibalistic invasive shrimp. And Cera Fearing.

    April 26, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Lauren, NC

    that's a lot easier to peel than a whole bowl of steamed shrimp?

    April 26, 2012 at 5:01 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Diggity Dave

    After that, shrimping was easy.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:02 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Jed_c

    Oops, after reading the headline, I thought it was an article about Newt Gingrinch

    April 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Stevious

    "Giant Cannibal Shrimp" would make a great name for a rock band.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  10. tmo-ay

    what, and cow eating cows or pigs eating pigs is safe?

    April 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Mark

    Mad Shrimp Disease!

    April 26, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete/Ark

      "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes"...................!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
  12. mary

    Good we'll eat them instead. Probably better than the deformed ones with no eyes they are getting now thanks to the oil spill and all the chemicals they dumped in the gulf..
    Can't wait for all the radioactive fish on the west coast out of the Pacific..That should be equally as disgusting.. Eat them and Soon maybe we will have a few less eyes or our appendages falling off too?? :(
    Well its one big mass experiment...I guess its fortuante most of us won't be around to see what it did to future generations. Of life on earth.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Pete/Ark

      "........in th' year 2525 , if Man is stil alive........"

      April 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Nunya

      Bah, that stuff will never kill us because we'll be dead instead from more rapid-acting biogenetic catastrophes...

      April 26, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick Lewis

      It's not an experiment. Experiments have control groups. This is biological contamination.

      April 26, 2012 at 5:50 pm | Report abuse |
  13. wildone

    "All hands on deck! All Hands on deck! Man the butter tubs!"

    April 26, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Sam Wayne (pupuguru) Smith

    Uhhh, Tiger Prawns are exported by the tons from Asian farms..... eaten all over the world with relish..;D

    April 26, 2012 at 5:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • wildone

      Chutney?

      April 26, 2012 at 6:15 pm | Report abuse |
  15. meemee

    Now what's wrong with a little Diversity under the waves? Funny, how we only write stories about species and subgroups being threatened when they're non-human.

    April 26, 2012 at 5:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • RJ

      @meemee – are you implying that some of America's racial groups are EATING others?

      This isn't a story about some shrimp being bigger than others and getting more of the other shrimps women

      April 26, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • JohnENY

      yup- nothing wrong w/ a little cultural diversity for the shrimp too. they are all one race- the shrimp race!!

      April 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
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