I love seafood: shrimp, scallops, lobster, and crab. I am not alone; while there are some who might not enjoy seafood (or have an allergy), the majority of us find seafood to be a delicacy we’re willing to travel to eat fresh from the ocean and/or pay premiums prices to consume. Also, in the world of immensely enjoying the eating of seafood, bigger is USUALLY better. King prawns, sea scallops the size of filet mignon, and pounds upon pounds of crab legs are prized items.
Sometimes, however, bigger is not always better. Sometimes, bigger is just freaking scary. And unnatural. And brings about a slight case of nausea.
Take the case of the Asian Tiger shrimp, which is so large that it actually feeds on its own shrimp cousins. Originally from the waters of Asia and Australia, it often grows to be as large, or larger, than a Maine lobster—reaching a size of thirteen inches long.
Again, it mainly enjoys eating normal-sized shrimp. In recent years, the massive cannibalistic shrimp has figured out that there are tons and tons of normal shrimp, just waiting to be munched on, in the coastal waters of the North American continent. After an accidental release (it’s how it always happens in the apocalyptic movies, isn’t it?) in North Carolina in 1998 of approximately 2000 of these suckers, they’ve migrated through the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico, and have been found in coastal waters from North Carolina to Texas.
This year the invasion along the Texas coast, according to the USGS and NOAA, is expected to grow exponentially. Last year (2011) the two government offices witnessed a tenfold increase in the Asian Tiger shrimp from 2010, and they believe that the numbers are not truly representative of what is actually out there, as shrimpers and fisherman have grown accustomed to finding them (and may not report them). Another alarming fact; female Asian Tiger shrimp can lay from 50,000 to a MILLION eggs, which hatch after only 24 hours.
I would do the math to figure out how many more of these freaky giants could be born this year, but I never liked math much. While not willing to admit quite yet that there is a breeding population in US waters (um, DUH), the scientists at the USGS and NOAA are scared. NOAA marine ecologist James Morris said:
“The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems. Our efforts will include assessments of the biology and ecology of this non-native species and attempts to predict impacts to economically and ecologically important species of the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico.”
Those are some pretty strong words from a marine ecologist.
So how can we get rid of the invaders (without causing a nuclear winter and a degradation of society as we know it)? Well, we could eat them—they can be consumed by humans. That being said, Asian Tiger Shrimp are disease prone. And freakishly huge. And probably a pain in the ass to devein.
So, folks, it’s time to get your shrimp invasion emergency kits ready. Don’t let the preppers win. Make sure to stock up on shrimp boil. And cocktail sauce. We’re going to need it; God help us all.