Red Shrimp May Threaten Food Chain
Written by Associated Press   
Tuesday, 19 June 2007 15:24

A red shrimp found in Lake Erie and two other Great Lakes has scientists concerned they could threaten the food chain.  A small, half-inch creature, the red mysid is near the bottom of the food chain. Big fish eat them and they compete with small fish for plankton.

"The fact is these things are here," said Dave Reid, a senior researcher for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. "Whether or not they have an impact that we need to deal with ... the jury's still out on that."

The tiny shrimp originate in the Baltic and Black seas. In the 1950s, Russia introduced the shrimp into fish reservoirs. At first, the fish got bigger. Then, the larval fish starved, beaten down by the more powerful shrimp population.

The hatcheries failed, but by then it was too late. The shrimp had attached themselves to ships and anchor chains, making their way to the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and finally the Great Lakes.

"You never know when you throw something new into the mix," Steven Pothoven, a fisheries biologist at the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory, said. "Maybe they'll be food. Or maybe they'll outcompete the fish that eats this stuff. That's the question at this point, and the thing is, we just don't know."

In May 2006, the first red shrimp discovery was made in Lake Ontario. A few months later, they were found in Lake Michigan. In August, the first red crustacean was found in Lake Erie.

Now scientists are trying to figure out the size of Erie's red shrimp population. They have set traps to try and find the elusive nocturnal creatures.

"There's no free lunch," said Sara Grise, a coastal outreach specialist for the Pennsylvania Sea Grant program. "You are not going to get this nice, wonderful food source without losing something else."
 
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