Florida shrimp are recognized as some of the absolute best in the country. Now a new behemoth “prawn” may be appearing in state waters. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is asking fishermen to be on the lookout for nonnative giant tiger prawn after a recent sighting in East Bay near Panama City. Biologists are also working to confirm reports of a sighting in Pensacola Bay.
The catch marks the first time a giant tiger prawn was reported to the FWC in Florida’s northern Gulf of Mexico waters. Reports have been common in Atlantic coastal waters, three were reported off the coast of St. Augustine this summer.
Named for the black stripes on its shell, giant tiger prawn also are known as black tiger shrimp and Asian tigers. Impacts, both negative and positive are not known, but they could include competition for resources. Limited data indicate that there is likely not an established breeding population at this time, but there are several theories on why fishermen are seeing more of them, including increased awareness among fishermen and accidental releases in the Caribbean and South America.
Native to Southeast Asia and Australia, the large (8 to 12 inches long) shrimp was first introduced into U.S. waters in 1988 after an accidental release of about 2,000 shrimp from an aquaculture facility in Bluffton, S.C. About 10 percent of those that were released were later recaptured, some as far south as Cape Canaveral. After 1988, the next reported sighting wasn’t until 2006. Since then, several sightings have been reported along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina southward. Gulf sightings have been rare but are increasing in frequency in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal waters.
What to Do:
Tiger prawns are edible and mild tasting, contributing to their popularity worldwide. If you catch any giant tiger prawn, the FWC requests you report size, date and location of the capture, preferably with the GPS coordinates, to Larry Connor at ExoticReports@MyFWC.com. Fishermen also are asked to take photos of them for identification purposes.