NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- With the inshore white shrimp season getting close, biologists are asking shrimpers to keep an eye out for Asian tiger prawns and to send photos of any they catch.
The Louisiana Wildlife and Fisheries Commission set dates Thursday for the inshore white shrimp season. Part of Chandeleur Sound is already open. Remaining inside waters will open Aug. 12 — at 6 a.m. west of the Atchafalaya River and at 6 p.m. east of the Atchafalaya.
The big, plump white shrimp caught in the fall are the most important for Louisiana fishermen. Tiger prawns, also called tiger shrimp, are much bigger, growing up to 14 inches long and weighing up to 1 ½ pounds.
The state is concerned about the prawns, which are edible, because they can crowd out and eat Louisiana's native white and brown ship.
State biologists don't know yet whether they have affected Louisiana's shrimp. But Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Department biologist Robert Bourgeois said, "Most shrimp will eat other shrimp if they have a chance."
Reports of tiger shrimp in U.S. waters rose from a few dozen a year — 21 in 2008, 47 in 2009 and 32 in 2010 — to 331 in 2011, from North Carolina to Texas.
A national database shows two reports to the state of Mississippi in 2009, eight in 2011 and 12 last year. Off Louisiana, numbers rose from fewer than 25 a year to more than 75 in 2011. Bourgeois said he received 80 to 90 reports last year, about 40 of them verified with either photographs or the shrimp themselves.
He's asking anyone who catches tiger shrimp off Louisiana to report the date, location and numbers caught — and, if possible, to send photographs — so biologists can track their distribution and tell whether and where they might be spawning in the Gulf of Mexico. The reports can be emailed or called in to Bourgeois at firstname.lastname@example.org or (225) 765-0765, or to Martin Bourgeois at email@example.com or (985) 594-4130.
Tiger prawns are easy to identify. They're not just big; they often have dark bodies and they're striped — usually in white, sometimes in red or yellow.