A rise in sightings of a giant, invasive shrimp has government scientists working to determine the cause and possible consequences for native fish and seafood in the Gulf of Mexico.
In 2010, there were 32 reported sightings of the Asian tiger prawn in Gulf and Atlantic waters, according to Pam Fuller, the U.S. Geological Survey biologist who runs the agency's Nonindigenous Aquatic Species database. In 2012, those reports jumped to 331.
“We can confirm there was nearly a tenfold jump in reports of Asian tiger shrimp in 2011,” Fuller said. “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.”
Fuller said scientists aren't sure why Asian tiger prawn sightings have suddenly increased so dramatically. It could be that shrimpers are more aware of the prawns and are reporting them in greater numbers. But it is more likely their population has increased.