It’s not as startling as some of the science fiction invaders of movie fame, but the giant tiger shrimp is still getting attention.
State officials are concerned that the non-native species is now in the northern Gulf of Mexico, and they want help finding the interlopers.
In a news release about the creatures, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission noted: “Impacts, both negative and positive, are unclear at this time, but they could include competition for resources.”
The tiger shrimp -- which has black stripes on its shell and can grow to a foot in length -- is known by the scientific name Penaeus monodon and also is referred to as the black tiger shrimp and Asian tiger. They were a popular species on fish farms 10 to 20 years ago but have waned in popularity over the past decade in favor of a white shrimp variety.
The tiger shrimp species is native to Southeast Asia and Australia, according to FWC researchers. They got into U.S. waters during an accidental release in 1988. In the release, FWC officials said about 2,000 of the shrimp got away from a South Carolina facility and about 200 were eventually recaptured, including some that had made their way as far south as Cape Canaveral.
Six years later, the shrimp variety began showing up on the Atlantic coast between North Carolina and Florida, researchers said. More recently, the species has been spotted in Gulf waters along the Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi coastlines.
FWC officials said there were three tiger shrimp sightings near St. Augustine this summer and one was found Sept. 19 in East Bay, which is near Panama City.
That was the first time state officials said one of the creatures was spotted in northern Gulf waters off Florida.
Another report of a tiger shrimp sighting in Pensacola Bay has not yet been confirmed.
Researchers do not know if the species has a breeding population in the Gulf, which could account for more sightings recently.
Other theories FWC has proposed for more tiger shrimp being reported recently include more awareness by fishermen that they exist and the possibility they may have been accidentally released from aquaculture facilities in the Caribbean Sea or South America.
People who believe they have spotted a giant tiger shrimp are encouraged to call the FWC with details, such as the size of the shrimp, the date it was caught and where it was caught. Researchers said the GPS coordinates are preferred.
The information should be given to Larry Connor at (352) 357-2398 or ExoticReports@MyFWC.com.
In addition, FWC is asking anyone who comes across a tiger shrimp to “either keep the shrimp for collection or take photos of them for identification purposes.”
STONE CRAB SEASON OPENS SATURDAY
One of the joys of life in Florida -- eating stone crabs -- returns Saturday when the annual season opens.
Fishermen will be allowed to hunt for the crustaceans. Here are some of the rules they must follow:
n When they catch a crab, they can remove the claws, but throw back the crab.
n Egg bearing females are not allowed to be declawed.
n The crabs are captured in baited traps, declawed and released.
n No spears or hooks are allowed.
Stone crab season in Florida runs from Oct. 15 to May 15.
-- The Miami Herald