BRUNSWICK — Thanks to some helpful fishermen, the Department of Natural Resources is learning more about one of the latest biological invaders to be found along the Georgia coast.
Asian tiger shrimp first occurred in Georgia waters during the late 1980s, following their escape from a South Carolina shrimp farm. After a few years, the reports ended, and it appeared this non-indigenous shrimp couldn’t survive and reproduce in the South Atlantic.
However, in 2008, Asian tiger shrimp once again populated the catches of commercial shrimpers. Now, the species is regularly captured off Georgia’s coast and has been found from North Carolina to Texas.
Tiger shrimp are raised in shrimp farms around the world and can grow to be three times the size of native shrimp. The impact of invasive species on native fauna is difficult to predict, but often is harmful. Competition for food and habitat resources, predation and transmission of disease may impact local shrimp, as well as other species.
This past June, the Department of Natural Resources launched a web-based reporting system in an effort to make it easy and convenient for the public to report encounters with tiger shrimp.
During 2013, a total of 53 reports were filed through the system, and 195 specimens were processed for information. Tissue samples from 50 specimens were sent to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric genetic repository and a sample of tail tissue from 10 tiger shrimp was submitted for mercury-contaminant analysis.
Capture-location information was added to the United States Geological Survey Nonindigenous Aquatic Species website. Lastly, samples of gill tissue from tiger shrimp were analyzed for the presence of the ciliated protozoan that causes black-gill syndrome in native species.
“Thanks to the cooperation of the public, we are beginning to shed some light on this second invasion of Asian tiger shrimp,” said Todd Mathes, biologist coordinating the tiger-shrimp monitoring project for DNR. “We’ve only caught a couple of these in our scientific surveys, so the specimens provided by concerned fishermen are a very important source of data.”
Three of the individuals who provided reports and specimens — Gary Iler of Townsend, David Foster of Cumming and Dennis Murphy of Midway — randomly were chosen to receive Bass Pro Shops gift cards courtesy of the Georgia Natural Resources Foundation.
By offering this reward, the foundation is hoping to inspire others to participate in voluntary data-collection projects.
The catch of tiger shrimp has increased to the point that some seafood markets are able to provide a reliable supply to customers.
The cure for this invasion may be the same as for another aquatic nuisance, the lionfish, which has been added to restaurant menus throughout the Florida Keys and Caribbean.
To report an Asian tiger shrimp, for information on donating tiger shrimp or for assistance with species identification, go to CoastalGaDNR.org/TigerShrimp or send questions and/or a photograph to Todd.Mathes@GaDNR.org.