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Florida anglers asked to look out for rare species

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission is asking fishermen to be on the lookout for non-native giant tiger prawn after a recent sighting in East Bay near Panama City.

The Sept. 19 catch marks the first time a giant tiger prawn was reported to the FWC in Florida’s northern Gulf of Mexico waters. Reports have been common in Atlantic coastal waters, and three were reported this summer off the coast of St. Augustine. Biologists are also working to confirm reports of another sighting in Pensacola Bay.

The effects, negative and positive, are unclear at this time, but they could include competition for resources, according to the FWC.

Native to Southeast Asia and Australia, the large shrimp was introduced to U.S. waters in 1988 after an accidental release of about 2,000 shrimp from an aquaculture facility in Bluffton, S.C. About 10 percent of those released were later recaptured, some as far south as Cape Canaveral, Fla.

After 1988, the next reported sighting was not until 2006. Since then, several sightings have been reported along the Atlantic coast from North Carolina southward. Gulf sightings have been rare, but are increasing in frequency in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama coastal waters.

The FWC requests that fishermen report size, date and location of the capture, preferably with GPS coordinates, to Larry Connor at (352) 357-2398 or exoticreports@myfwc.com. Fishermen also are asked to either keep the shrimp for collection or take photos of them for identification purposes.

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