Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Appeal to help save native crayfish this Christmas season

Ecologists from a local partnership to protect nativecrayfish are appealing for help saving the species this Christmas and New Year.

The South West Crayfish Project aims to raise awareness of the simple steps the public can take to protect this important aquatic animal from the deadly crayfish plague.

Crayfish plague is a fungus-like disease which is harmless to people and animals but lethal to our native white-clawed crayfish. It can be spread by people as it attaches onto anything that gets wet in infected water – this can include wellies, walking boots, fishing tackle and nets.

Maddy Rees, spokesperson for the South West Crayfish Project, explains how people can help stop the spread of the disease this festive period: “Many people enjoy going out for a long walk after a big Christmas dinner, or perhaps on Boxing Day or New Year’s Day. While we encourage people to get out and about and enjoy our beautiful countryside, there are a few simple measures people can take to help prevent the spread of this crayfish disease.”

She added: “Whether you are taking a walk along the river or teaching your children to fish, be aware that you might be affecting the health of our native wildlife. We are urging people to help prevent the spread of the crayfish plague by simply cleaning and drying any equipment or footwear you get wet in our rivers and lakes. The drying is particularly important as any remaining moisture may enable the disease to survive.”

The South West Crayfish Project is a partnership led by the Bristol Conservation and Science Foundation - a sister organisation to Bristol Zoo Gardens - with the Avon Wildlife Trust, Environment Agency, Buglife and funded by Natural England, Biffaward and Bristol Water.

The white-clawed crayfish is the UK’s only native crayfish species, but their numbers have suffered extensive decline in recent years. Up to 95 per cent of populations have been lost in some parts of the UK due to the crayfish plague.

Experts warn the species could become extinct from the UK within the next 30 years and the species has now been designated a UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP) priority species.

One of the main culprits for the spread of the disease is the aggressive American signal crayfish – a non-native species which is taking over UK waterways and wiping out the smaller native species.

For more information about the South West Crayfish Project, please visit  or contact Maddy Rees by email on

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