Salem Harbor Faces New Invader

Palaemon elegans . Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

According to a recent article in the Salem News, an invasive species of European shrimp known as the rock pool prawn (Palaemon elegans) was recently discovered at Hawthorne Cove Marina and Palmer’s Cove Yacht Club in Salem Harbor. It is the first time the shrimp has been found in American waters.

A team of 25 scientists from the Massachusetts Office of Coastal Zone Management and MIT’s Sea Grant College Program found the shrimp in a sample they took July 30. James Carlton, director of the Williams College-Mystic Seaport Maritime Studies program, confirmed the shrimp’s identity. He consulted with an expert at Oxford University in England after failing to find the creature in guides to American species.

The shrimp is normally found in England and on the Atlantic coast of Africa, and was described by Jan Smith, water-quality and habitat manager for Mass. CZM and leader of the survey team, as “an omnivore that eats amphipods,” small crustaceans found in tidal pools. Recent studies in Sweden have shown that the rock pool prawn can eat so many smaller creatures that green algae in the pools is no longer controlled.

The rock pool prawn grows to 2 1/2 inches and is edible.

Smith said this year’s survey, which has been conducted every 3 years since 2000, specifically to look for invasive species, went to 20 sites—mostly floating docks and piers—between Naragansett Bay, Rhode Island, and Casco Bay, Maine. So far, the rock pool prawn has only been found in Salem Harbor.

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Palaemon elegans from igorhp on Vimeo.