Asian tiger shrimp. (Photo: wlf.louisiana.gov)
Asian tiger shrimp sightings increase
Friday, April 27, 2012, 23:20 (GMT + 9)
Government scientists are working to find an explanation for the recent rise in sightings of non-native Asian tiger shrimp off the US Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts. An issue of concern is the possible consequences for native fish and seafood.
Researchers from the US Geological Survey (USGS) and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are collaborating with state agencies from North Carolina to Texas to determine how this transplanted species from Indo-Pacific, Asian and Australian waters reached the US.
“We can confirm there was nearly a tenfold jump in reports of Asian tiger shrimp in 2011,” explained Pam Fuller, the USGS biologist who runs the agency’s Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database. “And they are probably even more prevalent than reports suggest, because the more fishermen and other locals become accustomed to seeing them, the less likely they are to report them.”
NOAA scientists are introducing a research effort to discover more about the biology of these shrimp and their effects on the ecology of native fisheries and coastal ecosystems.
“The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems,” said NOAA marine ecologist James Morris. “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 worry Asian tiger shrimp, which grow to be as long as 13 in, will compete with native shrimp for food or even eat native shrimp, CNN reports.
The non-native shrimp species may have escaped from aquaculture facilities, been transported in ballast water from ships or arrived on ocean currents from wild populations in the Caribbean or elsewhere.
Fuller’s team at USGS has been tracking reports of Asian tiger shrimp since they were first spotted in 1988, when nearly 300 were collected off the coasts of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Scientists tracked the cause back to an aquaculture facility operating in South Carolina.
The species was then seen in the Mexican Gulf in 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2011.
“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,” said USGS geneticist Margaret Hunter. “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.”
Anyone who sees one or more shrimp suspected to be an Asian tiger shrimp is asked to note the location and report the sighting to the USGS.
By Natalia Real