Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foreign Shrimp in First Coast Waters? Biologists Check It out; Crabber Found It Unexpectedly; How It Got Here, Nobody's Quite Sure

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Foreign Shrimp in First Coast Waters? Biologists Check It out; Crabber Found It Unexpectedly; How It Got Here, Nobody's Quite Sure

Article excerpt

Byline: William Browning

One day last month local crabber D.K. Register was pulling traps up along the St. Johns River when he came across something strange around the Julington Creek area.

It fell out of a clump of grass inside of a trap. It looked like a shrimp, but it was black and had a bright red stripe along its back.

"That's a weird-looking creature," he thought to himself.

Register kept it, eventually passing it along to Ben Williams, owner of Fisherman's Dock Seafood in Mandarin. Williams had never seen anything like the creature either. He asked around, emailing and calling folks, trying to figure out what Register had come across. A crustacean research biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told him it was a Panaeus monodon - or Asian tiger shrimp.

In October state biologist Larry Connor told the Times-Union the shrimp had been appearing more frequently.

They are native to East Africa, South Asia, the Philippines and Australia and no one is exactly sure how they got to the First Coast, said Pamela Fuller, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Program in Gainesville.

During a South Carolina Department of Natural Resources aquaculture experiment in the late 1980s, about 2,000 of the species were released into the Atlantic Ocean accidentally. Also, several locations in the Caribbean were raising the prawns during the 2000s and some believe that could be the source. They have not been farmed in the U.S. since 2004.

No matter the source, tiger shrimp first started being seen in 2006, when five were verified off the coast of North Carolina. Since then, verified sightings have grown, with a total of 691 by mid-July. Most take place in waters off the Carolinas and Louisiana, though that may reflect the number of shrimpers and crabbers in those areas, Fuller said. …

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