Being from Louisiana, the term "jumbo shrimp" usually indicates a positive (and tasty) thing. Those suckers are usually three inches long at most. That's gargantuan, even. Now, a foot-long shrimp species that look like they came from another planet has invaded the Gulf, bringing with it an insatiable hunger and a load of disease.
Known as Asian tiger prawns, thus far only five have been found in the Gulf, but that's five more than should be there, and there have been a flurry of sightings. The species is from the western Pacific and can grow up to 13 inches long and half a pound. Marine scientists are conducting genetic studies to determine their origins, but it is thought there may have been an accidental release of farmed Asian tiger prawns in South Carolina.
The environmental impact of these prawns is unknown, but bringing a foreign species into the Gulf, especially one with such a larger appetite than those who call it home, can knock the natural ecosystem off balance.
Not to mention the prawns are a known carrier of at least 16 viruses, ones that can be lethal to shrimp and fish, which would do more than just throw the Gulf's ecosystem off balance: it could throw the Gulf Coast's economy off balance.
As of yet, it hasn't been proven that these prawns are actually breeding in the waters, simply that they have been introduced to the ecosystem.
It's possible these could be harvested in years to come, as shrimp are now, but it would be at the cost of the species of shrimp we know and love.
And, as a New Orleanian, I have to say, a jumbo shrimp po'boy of this magnitude would be just a little too daunting.