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Though Tasty, Gulf’s ‘Alien’ Shrimp Pose Disease Concern

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Tiger Prawn in a fish farm in Thailand (Photo credit: ROMEO GACAD / AFP / Getty Images)

Tiger Prawn in a fish farm in Thailand (Photo credit: ROMEO GACAD / AFP / Getty Images)

HOUSTON (CBS Houston) – It could be a plot line from a B-grade movie complete with men in rubber monster suits, grainy black and white film, and Fay Wray screaming in horror. However, it’s actually happening — with shrimp.

The invading alien force is the Asian tiger prawn and it’s making its home in the Gulf of Mexico, according to the Houston Chronicle.

No one is sure how tiger prawns came to the region. There is some speculation that the species may have escaped from industrial shrimp ponds in the Caribbean during recent hurricanes, or they could be from an accidental release of farmed shrimp in South Carolina in 1988.

There is also a concern that the prawns might be carrying disease. Although disease in the Gulf is relatively low, disease in fish farms is common. The tiger prawns are known to carry up to 16 different viruses including one called white spot which is highly contagious amongst shrimp, according to the Chronicle.

There is a bright side to this alien invasion. Asian tiger prawns are edible and are considered delicious. Tiger prawns can grow up to 13 inches, the size of a small lobster. They also have what could be described as a sweet flavor.

In the New York marketplace, tiger prawns demand a higher price than the native brown shrimp that are native to the Gulf.

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