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Sunday, 31 January 2010 17:14

Crayfish conundrum for angling

Carefully placed bait, a perfect cast; all to be ruined by a brazen crayfish sweep the bait from the line. More likely than not it is one of the North American crayfish that are rapidly spreading through our waterways. This species is affecting fisheries, rivers and lakes all over the country and has contributed to the devastating loss of British white-clawed crayfish which play an important role in healthy rivers.

White Clawed Crayfish How do signal crayfish affect fishing?
Although signal and native white-clawed crayfish are similar to look at there are significant differences between the two species.  North American signal crayfish grow larger, produce more offspring and are generally more aggressive.  Native white-clawed crayfish are a keystone species and an important part of the food chain in the clean, healthy rivers they are traditionally found in.  Signal crayfish can often lead to an imbalance in freshwater communities, over predating the aquatic invertebrates that many fish species feed on and even eating fish eggs.

Not only do signal crayfish affect fish stock directly, they can also have an impact on the quality of river and fishery banks and have even been known to cause severe damage to fishery dams.  How?  Both signal and white-clawed crayfish are burrowing species, however, signals create much deeper and more extensive burrows which cause banks to become unstable and can undercut dams. 

Trapping myth
As we become increasingly aware of the havoc that signal crayfish are causing, there has been an increase in programmes and articles recommending catching them for free food.  Read the fine print though – many people do not release it is illegal to trap for any species of crayfish without a trapping licence from the Environment Agency.  Casual trapping might seem an obvious way of reducing signal numbers, but this is not the case.  Large crayfish feed on smaller individuals, so casual trapping for food removes a natural predator. This may potentially result in a rapid growth in population.  Illegal crayfish trapping can unintentionally affect other wildlife, demonstrated recently by recorded cases of otters drowning in illegal crayfish traps.  Trapping for signals also greatly increases the risk of accidentally spreading a deadly disease that is wiping out native white-clawed crayfish.

Deadly disease
Most anglers’ are aware of the large number of waterway diseases that can affect fish stock and the importance of disinfecting equipment and boots appropriately.  The crayfish plague can easily be carried by fish or people and although harmless to either, it is lethal to white-clawed crayfish and can wipe out entire populations in a matter of weeks.  This fungus-like disease rarely affects signal crayfish, which can act as carriers.  It releases spores which travel through the water and attach onto anything they come in contact with.  A waterborne disease, the spores require moisture to survive so please wash off all you equipment and most importantly dry it out before changing your fishing location.  If you are able to disinfect equipment please do, if not make sure it has dried completely before use.

Stop the spread     
North American signal crayfish and the crayfish plague are wiping out native white-clawed crayfish populations and with up to 70% lost in the south west and no native crayfish left in some parts of the UK at all, if we don’t act now it will be too late to save this species from extinction in the UK.  Simple steps can save this species.  Do not trap for crayfish without first consulting the Environment Agency and obtaining a licence and never remove crayfish from a waterway or use any part for bait, these actions are illegal.  Do wash and dry all equipment and footwear after use and if possible disinfect appropriately.  Finally protect native crayfish habitat, which is also beneficial to other animals such as invertebrates and fish and report any sightings to your local Environment Agency office.

If you need advice on North American signal crayfish or crayfish legislation please contact your local environment agency, information can be found at: www.environment-agency.gov.uk

North American Signal Crayfish

Save a species:
The South West Crayfish Project is a partnership of organisations working to prevent the continued loss of native white-clawed crayfish in the south west.  Operating the largest strategic translocation, or re-homing programme, of native crayfish in the UK to date they work closely with the local angling community. 

If you want to know more about the plight of the white-clawed crayfish and how the South West Crayfish Project is working to conserve the species through re-homing and breeding programmes and education please visit the websites below and search for ‘South West Crayfish Project’:
www.bristolzoo.org.uk or www.avonwildlifetrust.org.uk

Source: South West Crayfish Project

Submit a Fishing Article: UK Fisherman would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to comment on any of our fishing articles. To do so, use the comment box below.

Alternatively if you would like to submit a fishing article of your own, please visit the CONTACT page.

Legislation regarding Crayfish in England and Wales: Save a species and stay legal! UK Fisherman are constantly being asked about the legalities surrounding Crayfish and trapping them. We hope the following, courtesy of the South West Crayfish Project helps.

White Clawed Crayfish White-clawed Crayfish

It is illegal to take white-clawed crayfish from the wild or offer for sale without a licence.  EU Habitats Directive and UK Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (as amended) legislation

It is illegal to handle native crayfish in England without a licence from Natural England.

It is illegal to trap any species of crayfish without licensing from the Environment Agency.


Non-native Crayfish

North American Signal CrayfishIt is illegal to release, or allow to escape, any non-native species into the wild in the UK except under licence.  Wildife and Countryside Act 1981, (as amended)

It is illegal to keep any crayfish in England and Wales, except under licence (with specific exemption areas for signal crayfish, refer to DEFRA - Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs).  The Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996 (as amended), made under the Import of Live Fish (England and Wales) Act 1980,

It is illegal to trap any species of crayfish without licensing from the Environment Agency.

It is illegal to release crayfish without a licence, or allowing them to escape

It is illegal to trap, trade or farm any species of crayfish commercially without licence. The Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996

Any person farming crayfish must register their business with The Fish Health Inspectorate, CEFAS - Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science.
Recent cases of otters drowning in illegal crayfish traps have been recorded. Traps with an entrance greater than 95mm internal diameter must be fitted with an otter guard. National Crayfish Byelaw 2005.

Fish Stocking

The movement of fish within all inland waters in England and Wales is regulated by the Environment Agency.  Section 30 of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975

Regulation is important as crayfish plague can be transported on fish scales and damp equipment during fish stocking.  The introduction of large fish into river systems can also disturb the balance of freshwater communities and result in an increased predation of juvenile white-clawed crayfish.

Suppliers

The Crayfish CodeNorth American signal crayfish are the only species that can be trapped and traded commercially.  All persons farming or holding non-native crayfish must have a licence and be registered with The Fish Health Inspectorate, CEFAS.  The Prohibition of Keeping of Live Fish (Crayfish) Order 1996 (as amended)

Some areas may not require licences to keep North American signal crayfish.  Please refer to: www.defra.gov.uk/fish/freshwater/pdf/licreq.pdf

It is illegal to trap any species of crayfish without licensing from the Environment Agency.

Restaurants and Markets

Hotels, restaurants and fish markets do not require a licence to hold crayfish if all crayfish held is for direct human consumption only.

It is illegal to release crayfish without a licence, or allowing them to escape

Waterside Management

In areas where angling clubs manage waterways, such as river banks, it may be possible to manage and enhance the habitat to benefit both native crayfish and target fish species, such as brown trout.

Contact the Environment Agency for consent to any in-channel or bank side work.  To check whether the site is subject to any special designations, contact Natural England.



References and sourcing

Search for crayfish legislation:

www.environment-agency.gov.uk/
www.defra.gov.uk/
www.cefas.co.uk/

Document: Crayfish and River Users: The Wildlife Trusts and Environment Agency.
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/crayfish_and_river_users_pdf.pdf

Further information wildlife and fish species (including crayfish):
www.environment-agency.gov.uk/homeandleisure/recreation/fishing/31491.aspx

For further information on the South West Crayfish Project:
www.bristolzoo.org.uk/resources/documents/Conservation%20pages/projects/Foundation_Crayfish_insert.pdf

Source: South West Crayfish Project

Submit a Fishing Article: UK Fisherman would be delighted to hear from you if you would like to comment on any of our fishing articles. To do so, use the comment box below.

Alternatively if you would like to submit a fishing article of your own, please visit the CONTACT page.

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