Invasion of the Monster Shrimp?

Scientists fear Asian tiger shrimp could be poised to invade U.S. coastal waters.

giant tiger shrimp

giant tiger shrimp

Photo: Martha Duvall, Southern Miss GCRL Public Relations

Shrimp the size of lobsters are a culinary delight, but they may pose an ecological calamity for the U.S. Atlantic Coast.

Now scientists are asking fishermen in the Southeast to report sightings of the Asian tiger shrimp in an effort to better track the huge crustacea and assess the status of any possible invasion.

While they are indeed large and succulent, the prolific, aggressive tigers would pose a serious threat to our much-smaller native-shrimp species. Scientists report a tenfold increase in reports of Asian tiger shrimp in 2011.

Scientists are also hoping to determine, via DNA testing, how the Asian migrants may have arrived off our shores.

Tiger shrimp represent "yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems," says James Morris, in a report in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

"If this goes the way other invasions have in the past,” says Morris, a NOAA fisheries scientist, “you have a small number and then all of a sudden they just explode. If this is happening now and we're at that point in the curve, we could see a rapid increase in tiger shrimp in the next few years.”

Anyone possible sightings of Asian tiger shrimp should be reported to federal scientists. (If possible, they ask, specimens collected should be frozen and sent to a NOAA tissue repository for testing by scientists.)