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Gulf shrimpers face growing threat: giant cannibal Asian tiger prawns

A week into shrimping season, the “Bub-Poot-Nae” already has a sizable catch.  20,000 pounds puts the shrimp boat on track for a good season, but the owners of David Chauvin’s Seafood Company in Dulac say all shrimpers aren’t so lucky.

Kimberly Chauvin says, “He happened to find them, he was in them and it did well for him all the times he’s been out there, but some of the guys have smaller boats so they can’t get to where he’s getting to so it’s harder for them.”

If you take Louisiana Highway 57 all the way down to the bayou and then take it a little more, you’ll find the dock bustling with crews sorting and crating their catch.  18-wheelers rotate through day and night to carry off the local seafood.  However, the “Bub-Poot-Nae” and other shrimp boats now face more hurdles than ever between the oil spill, imports and a new concern: the Asian Tiger prawn.  Sightings of the giant cannibal shrimp grew ten times from 2010 to 2011.

Chauvin says, “There’s a worry because they’re much bigger than our shrimp, of them taking over our native shrimp which is white shrimp and brown shrimp and even sea bobs.”  Like something out of a Sci-Fi flick, the striped shrimp can grow more than a foot long, weighing up to a pound and a half.  Furthermore, the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries doesn’t know how they got here.

“It was a farm shrimp, now it’s gotten into our ecosystem,” says Chauvin, “So we’re gonna have to do some learning.  We’re gonna have a learning curve with this shrimp to see what it does.”

Although many of our shrimpers have caught the Asian Tiger Prawns, at this point they’re more of a novelty.  They’re not catching enough of them to actually sell on the market.  But that doesn’t mean you haven’t eaten them.  Many of the restaurants around town are buying them from overseas.  “You’d be amazed to see how many just in New Orleans alone use imported shrimp and kind-of don’t tell people what they’re using.”

The Chauvin’s say they’re not opposed to introducing a new species to the market, so long as it doesn’t affect our local shrimpers and our native catch.