‘Alien crayfish’ invades English waterways

A “highly aggressive” American crayfish is infiltrating waterways in East London. The claims come from the Environment Agency which is tracking the spread of the crayfish by planting tiny radio […]

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By Vicky Ellis

A “highly aggressive” American crayfish is infiltrating waterways in East London. The claims come from the Environment Agency which is tracking the spread of the crayfish by planting tiny radio transmitters on their backs.

The invaders carry crayfish plague, a disease which is deadly to the UK’s only native of the species, the white clawed crayfish.

Originally from North America, they were first found on the River Lee near Enfield in 2004 and are believed to have arrived in the UK after an aquarium owner released them into a pond.

Adam Ellis, environmental monitoring officer at the Environment Agency said: “Whilst rivers in England and Wales are cleaner than they have been for decades, there is still a lot to be done in order to return them to full health. This includes the control of invasive species like virile crayfish. By tracking the colonisation of the River Lee by them, we will better understand how this species impacts the environment and our native wildlife.”

He added: “One of the most important ways to protect our wildlife is to stop the spread of non-native invasive species. We’re appealing to the public not to release unwanted pets into the wild.”

Invasive species cost the UK economy an estimated £1.7billion every year. The rise of invasive species is a major challenge in meeting tough new EU targets on the ecology of rivers and lakes.

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