A big increase in reports of Asian tiger shrimp along the U.S. Southeast coast and in the Gulf of Mexico has federal biologists worried the species is encroaching on native species’ territory.
The black-and-white-striped shrimp can grow 13 inches long and weigh a quarter-pound, compared to eight inches and a bit over an ounce for domestic white, brown and pink shrimp. Scientists fear the tigers will bring disease and competition for native shrimp.
Shrimp are all bottom feeders, eating detritus and small animals. Bigger shrimp would eat more and these get so big they also eat small shrimp and fish, marine ecologist James A. Morris said.
Reports of tiger shrimp in U.S. waters rose from a few dozen a year — 21 in 2008, 47 in 2009 and 32 in 2010 — to 331 last year, from North Carolina to Texas.
“That’s a big jump,” said Pam Fuller, who keeps a federal invasive species database at the U.S. Geological Survey’s Southeast Ecological Science Center in Gainesville, Fla.
And those are just the numbers reported to the government.
“I’ve had fishermen tell me they have quit bringing them in. They are seeing large numbers in their catch — multiples per night,” said Morris, who works at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Center for Coastal Fisheries and Habitat Research in Beaufort, N.C.
The increase “is the first indication that we may be undergoing a true invasion of Asian tiger shrimp,” he said.