Stories of non-native species appearing in U.S. lands and waters are not so rare these days. In Early June, Oriental shrimp were identified in Connecticut’s Mystic River. The species is from Korea, Japan, and China. When mature they are about three inches long and are commercially viable in Asia. They got to the Mystic River probably from a cargo ship which carried them in its ballast water. They were first identified on the East Coast in 2001, in the Bronx River. In 1962 they were found in San Francisco.
Currently it isn’t known if the Asian shrimp will have a negative impact on the Mystic River ecosystem. Marine scientist James T. Carlton said of the discovery, “When we see a shrimp like this it tells me the door is still open, and that’s a real concern. It tells us the pathways for invasion are still in play.” In other words, if one invasive species can live there, others may be on the way, or already there.
Invasive species can cause major damage to native ecology. For example, in 1995, zebra mussel removal in the San Francisco Bay Area cost 17 million dollars. At the moment no one knows if the Asian shrimp will cause damage to the population of grassy Mystic River shrimp. They don’t know if local fish will eat the Asian shrimp either. It may turn out that humans will have to intervene and catch the Asian shrimp if they can, and eat them.
Non-native, or exotic species sometimes thrive in American landscapes. There are now so many Burmese Pythons in Florida there are Python Patrols in the state used to help eradicate the species, though that may not be enough. In about 1940, 150 nutria escaped into the Louisiana bayou, and by 1960 there were millions.
At this point, it isn’t known how many Asian shrimp are in the Mystic River, but there may have to be some measures taken to control their population.
Image Credit: snowriverguy