WASHINGTON, April 26 (UPI) -- An invasion of giant "cannibal" shrimp into America's east coast and gulf coast waters appears to be getting worse, U.S. governmental researchers say.
Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported Thursday sightings of massive Asian tiger shrimp, which can eat their smaller shrimp counterparts, were 10 times higher in 2011 than in 2010.
"And they are probably even more prevalent than reports suggest, because the more fisherman and other locals become accustomed to seeing them, the less likely they are to report them," Pam Fuller, a USGS biologist, told CNN.
Native to Asian and Australian waters, the tiger shrimp, which can grow to 13 inches long, have been seen in coastal U.S. waters from North Carolina to Texas.
Tiger shrimp can be eaten, Fuller said.
"They're supposed to be very good. But they can get very large, sorta like lobsters," Fuller said.
But it's the Tiger shrimps' own eating habits that have researchers concerned.
"Are they competing with or preying on native shrimp?" Fuller asked. "It's also very disease-prone."
The invasive species will be the subject of a research project, scientists said.
"The Asian tiger shrimp represents yet another potential marine invader capable of altering fragile marine ecosystems," NOAA marine ecologist James Morris said in a statement.
"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."