Exotic black tiger shrimp are invading the Gulf of Mexico.
Twice the size of native Gulf shrimp at nearly a foot long and weighing almost a pound, the huge non-native black tiger shrimp may out compete native shrimp and they have shrimp boat owners worried.
"We brought two in and there is one on the boat at sea. It has not got to the dock yet," says Charles Burnell, Shrimp Fleet Owner. Black tiger shrimp are native to the Indian and Western Pacific Oceans and are so named because of their bright yellow stripping.
Approximately, 200 of them have recently been harvested in the Gulf of Mexico, but the actual number may be much higher as not all are believed to have been documented.
This one was recently caught by one of Charles Burnell's boats, which fishes out of the Brownsville turning basin. When frozen tigers lose their bright yellow stripping. Biologists are concerned that the big and aggressive non-native tigers will out compete the native shrimp and threaten the $700 million dollar Gulf shrimping industry.
"They do pose a threat. They are invasive, they are exotic, and they compete with our native species. They also eat shellfish; they could even eat small oysters. They are nocturnal, cannibalistic. We believe they may have established a breeding population in the Gulf of Mexico," explained Tony Reisinger, Cameron County Marine Extension Agent.
Black tiger shrimp are one of the most popular aquaculture species, and it is believed the ones invading the Gulf of Mexico are escapees from shrimp farm facilities, perhaps from Caribbean ponds breached by a hurricane several years ago. "We are sending this one off for genetic testing to actually track down what the source is, says Tony Reisinger.