- Associated Press - Monday, April 6, 2015

CHARLESTON, S.C. (AP) - There’s concern about cannibal shrimp along the South Carolina coast.

The state Department of Natural Resources is taking part in a regional study to determine if invasive tiger shrimp eat native shrimp, The Post and Courier of Charleston reports (http://bit.ly/1HH2kQS ).

Tiger shrimp are native to Asia and are about twice as large as local shrimp. They were spotted along the coast as early as a decade ago but started turning up in larger numbers in South Carolina waters after Hurricane Irene in 2011.

“They’re becoming more commonplace,” said Amy Fowler, a marine scientist with the department who says the regional study is the first of its type.

Biologists are trying to determine if reports that the tiger shrimp eat local varieties are true. DNR is asking commercial and recreational shrimpers to freeze samples of tiger shrimp they catch and bring them in so their stomach contents can be checked.

There also are concerns that the tiger shrimp could carry diseases that could affect native shrimp stocks. They are also more aggressive and marine biologists worry they could edge out local shrimp in the competition for food.

Tiger shrimp are farmed in South America and in the Caribbean and researchers suspect they were swept into the ocean during hurricanes and have been moving northward.

The newspaper also reported that 2,000 tiger shrimp were accidently released from a seaside shrimp farm in Bluffton, South Carolina, back in 1988. Shrimpers harvested about 300 tiger shrimp that year but then the tigers disappeared offshore of South Carolina for the next 18 years.

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Contact DNR about tiger shrimp by emailing tigershrimp@dnr.sc.gov or by calling 843-953-4985.

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Information from: The Post and Courier, http://www.postandcourier.com

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