An influx of aggressive demon shrimp is threatening to wipe out native species in British rivers and lakes - and is costing the British economy billions of pounds.
Demon shrimp, which originate from the region around the Black Sea and Caspian Sea, are disrupting the food chain in British waters and experts claim they pose a major bio-hazard.
And safeguarding the country against the problem is contributing to the cost of Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS) to the British economy, which is estimated at a total of approximately £1.7 billion a year.
Dr Alex Ford, a marine scientist from the University of Portsmouth, said that some of Britain’s native shrimp are in danger of being completely eradicated.
“They are out-eating and out-competing our native shrimps and changing the species dynamic in our rivers and lakes. As soon as one species is depleted it can affect the whole food chain with potentially catastrophic results,” he said.
Demon shrimp found their way into British waters accidentally, possibly through ballast water from ships. They kill and eat indigenous breeds and scientists have warned that they may spread diseases.
Dr Ford added: “We are looking at whether these demon shrimp carry ‘demon parasites’, which could also affect our native species that won’t have any immunity.
“There is a very real bio-security threat of spreading disease and parasites in native populations without acquired resistance.”
The Environment Agency also considers the shrimp to be a huge problem. Spokesman Tim Johns said that they pose a risk to British ecosystems.
“Invasive shrimps such as this species present a major threat to the ecology of our rivers and lakes and we have a real battle on our hands to control their spread.”
The EA is encouraging anglers and water sports fans to help stop the spread of demon shrimp by thoroughly cleaning equipment and clothing after use.