Giant cannibal shrimp worry Gulf Coast watchers
Black tiger shrimp may pose a huge problem for the Gulf Coast shrimp and oyster industry, an expert says.
December 16th, 2011
01:22 PM ET

Giant cannibal shrimp worry Gulf Coast watchers

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the Gulf of Mexico, a new menace, this one striped like a big cat, is preying on aquatic life: The black tiger shrimp.

The biggest saltwater shrimp in the world, black tigers “are cannibalistic as are other shrimp but it’s larger so it can consume the others,” Tony Reisinger, country extension agent for the Texas Sea Grant Extension Service, told CNN on Friday.

Because of the threat of disease, the predatory intruder poses a problem for the native shrimp and oyster population of the Gulf, Reisinger said.

"Our oystermen right now are hurting because the oyster season is shut down due to a red tide. But this (black tiger) shrimp poses other concerns,” he said.

Appearing more than 25 years ago, the black tiger’s sudden reappearance is a mystery.

“The first time they started appearing was in the late 1980s on the East Coast,” he said. “Then they disappeared in 1991.”

But following the record-breaking hurricane season of 2005, which brought successive monster storms Katrina, Rita and Wilma, they started showing up again, he said.

“They’re well over 1,000 of them in the Gulf of Mexico now,” he said. “We’ve had five of them caught off Texas.”

Reisinger said he spoke to the Brownsville-Port Isabel Shrimp Producers Association recently to warn them about the shrimp but he was too late.

“It turns our fishermen have been catching them for a while, but they didn’t think they were marketable so they were throwing them back,” he said.

Is there a harvestable population already established in the Gulf? What does that mean for the Louisiana and South Texas shrimp and oyster industry? Many questions remain, Reisinger said.

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Filed under: Animals • Texas
soundoff (484 Responses)
  1. john

    Giant shrimp or colossal shrimp had been harvested and eaten by Asian people and western visitors for several decades and proven to be safe and delicious,now a days is so expensive to buy.It might not be common here in North American pacific side of the ocean but I'll guarantee you there's no harm in it.Of course it is carnivorous and will eat anything

    December 24, 2011 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Raider

      Anything? Guess that's it for me going swimming! =P

      December 25, 2011 at 6:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • KatyaKatya

      Eat them! Eat them! Please don't let them try to eradicate the giant shrimp with poisons which is their usual way! Poisons will poison the water and make all seafood in the region unsafe but not take care of the shrimp. Let's eat them before they eat us! I am serious.

      December 28, 2011 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • patrick

      Whether these shrimp are considered food or pests will be determined by who gets the bribe into the congressman's pocket first.

      December 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • AJ

      People living along the gulf coast aren't the brightest God bless em. But that shrimp is edible.

      January 8, 2012 at 11:54 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Terry G

    Mediterranean Reds (giant prawns also known as "Spanish Reds") were selling for $10+ in the 1970's – they were excellent eating, growing to 3 per pound. If you ever had one, you had a treat.

    December 25, 2011 at 2:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. getthetruth

    First the terms shrimp and prawn are synonyms , in the US the term shrimp is used and in Asia and Europe the term prawn is used. In English, the term shrimp is used to describe a young or small prawn. The picture is that of the Tiger Prawn or Jumbo Prawn (Penaeus monodon) of the Indo-pacific region, it is farmed in all the tropical counties in that region (India, Bangladesh, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia etc). A smaller shrimp is grown in the US and Central America called the Pacific White leg shrimp (Littopenaeus vannamei). How did the Tiger shrimp come to be in the Gulf ? This prawn/shrimp was brought to a lab in the US some two decades or more ago for research purposes, either South Carolina or Florida, it was released either accidentally or escaped during a hurricane and several specimens have been found. It was also found in the UK in the Thames near the London Bridge; it was again let out by a lab. The Pacific White leg shrimp is farmed in the US Gulf states (ex. Texas to Florida) and is permitted under the Exotic species permit because it is an Atlantic species. Farms provide three barriers to escape but they have escaped and are also found in the Gulf. Although, regulatory agencies will not admit it, shrimp trawl operators now it.

    As for it being cannibalistic and threatening oysters ? Tony Reisinger needs to get better informed about the Tiger Prawn and not exhibit his ignorance and make up media-hype stories. The Tiger prawn is no different from any other Gulf shrimp or the Atlantic shrimp, it eats detritus or organic matter or small benthic organism that it can catch with its clawed legs like any other shrimp. It is a fast growing shrimp and just grows to a large size. Fast growing and larger size are two characters that farmers want in a farmed animal. In the US numerous plants and animals have been imported and farmed, some imports have caused problems though, others have been introduced accidentally. The occurance of the Tiger Prawn in the Gulf shows that it has established a breeding population and its larval stages will be found more often in intertidal shallows area and the adult population will be seen offshore and come up in trawls. The Tiger is a highly priced shrimp and is craved by Europeans and Asians who have eat it and enjoyed its red color on cooking and its great taste. However, as usual there will be some prejudice because it is Asian in origin. This is a reflection of some kind of people in this county, where ignorance is in plenty.

    December 25, 2011 at 9:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tracy

      Thank you for your informative post.I live in florida&do QUITE a bit of Shrimping as well as fishing for household consumption.I think most of the hysteria(if you will)comes from the fact that it breeds much better than the Native species to this Area(per se The Gulf Pink Shrimp)&therefore is crowding out the Native population.In some respects I can see why from the ecological as well as gastronomic side of things, as I have eaten both&I must say the Gulf Pink has much more flavor&texture than the Tiger,even though the Tiger has much more edible protein source&therefore has a much less negative imapct when viewed through the lens of consumption rate vs.population stability rate.(They both taste good when Scampi or grilled however!:)It would therefore make more sense to keep harvesting the Tiger in larger numbers than the Pinks(they are still delicious,they just lack a bit of the sweetness the Pinks have,but are still one of the most popular in the seafood section of the local grocery store wether most folks know it or not,I have seen them labeled as native "rock shrimp"many a time,oops..),as they take longer to destabilize the supply&can feed more people,sea life&such.I do however have a question in regards to Sea Life in this area feeding off of it:Since it is a Non-Native species&there has not been a good comprehensive study yet,what in your opinion do you think the potential Threat of invasive/foreign bacteria as well as the possibility of cross breeding with other species of Prawns/shrimp could be on the indigineous population here?Thanks again&have a great day!

      December 26, 2011 at 1:38 am | Report abuse |
    • MTD

      Well said!

      December 26, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • memberoflife

      yes nice post.... and I agree about what do oysters have to do with it? if this shrimp can eat a oyster Then nothing is safe! what a joke.

      December 30, 2011 at 1:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Robby Robinson

      Ignorance??? Let me explain why those fisherman in the Gulf coast look at Asian shrimp Oops I am sorry my friend Asian "PRAWNS" sideways. It has nothing to do with ignorance and everything to do with local restaurants and buyers can buy Asian "prawns" for almost 25% less than the Gulf coast variety. So instead of buying from the local fisherman, they are having their asian cousins imported at a whole lot less.
      Talk about ignorance my friend,wow!!

      January 9, 2012 at 6:09 am | Report abuse |
  4. Patrick

    I'm from Thailand and those Prawns are YUUUUMY!!!!!! They should not throw them back and harvest them for food! VERY prized and popular back home.

    December 26, 2011 at 2:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • ccn

      I have also eaten giant shrimp/prawn in Burma. I was delicious and tasted like lobster tail. If it's now available in the USA, then I don't have to go back to Burma.

      January 4, 2012 at 2:08 am | Report abuse |
  5. Dave

    My only question...are they delicious? If so, serve 'em up and quit griping!

    December 27, 2011 at 8:19 am | Report abuse |
    • memberoflife

      I agree!!! I got the grill fired up!! bring em on!

      December 30, 2011 at 1:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • Lulu

      Since we all buy shrimp here in Florida as bait for fishing, it doesn't matter much how they taste. We'll just have bigger shrimp to use and cut it into smaller pieces.

      January 1, 2012 at 9:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • John John

      Some people think they taste a bit more lobsterish, but I have had them and they taste like a mild shrimp but explode with flavor in garlic or done coconut style. Yes, They are VERY tasty. I can't believe the shrimpers have been throwing them back!

      January 2, 2012 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  6. nonyabidness2

    Why do they call them SHRIMP, when one can see how big they are? I ate some tiger shrimp and washed them down with a nice chanti...

    December 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • Buster Bloodvessel

      They are oxymoronic crustaceans.

      January 6, 2012 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Robyn

    Hey, we fit them for tiny little hannibal lector masks and viola, problem solved.
    Just remember to keep them away from the chianti and fava beans.

    December 30, 2011 at 10:35 am | Report abuse |
  8. steve

    I have a very simple solution....
    Garlic Butter

    December 30, 2011 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
  9. memberoflife

    I have had tigers before and a little sauce or grilled/fried with garlic butter lemon and some white wine and life is good!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    December 30, 2011 at 2:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Mel Moy

    Any time we start harvesting a specific seafood it becomes more and more expensive and eventually a threatened species. So if these large Tiger prawns are as good to eat as suggested, I have no fear that their population will grow to be a problem.

    January 1, 2012 at 8:05 pm | Report abuse |
  11. bttmstr

    man, this is hardly news...can't see what the complaint here is. we have MUCH larger shrimp to eat, ain't that a good thing?

    January 2, 2012 at 9:57 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Peter

    It looks oil-smudged. Yech.

    January 4, 2012 at 7:19 pm | Report abuse |
  13. JorgeMedina

    Do you want to be your own boss and earn $68/hour with only your laptop in the comfort of your homes? For this rare opportunity, visit

    January 4, 2012 at 11:38 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Kyser

    The real question is, are they tastee and delicious? if so why aren't we eating them!?

    January 6, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  15. kandronaray

    “They’re well over 1,000 of them in the Gulf of Mexico now,” he said. “We’ve had five of them caught off Texas.” I doubt that this was a written statement. Therefore, the "journalist" transcribing this should either proofread his data entry person's work or go back to school. It should be "There are well over..." not "They're [they are] well over...."

    January 7, 2012 at 12:13 am | Report abuse |
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