American rivals threaten crayfish

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

THE NATIVE British crayfish, a lobster-like creature that lives in fresh water, is dying from a plague spread by alien crayfish. It has been eliminated from some rivers and now the Government has devised a plan to prevent the foreign fish from spreading.

Many rivers in southern England, the Midlands and the Welsh borders have been infected by the crayfish plague spread by the American signal crayfish, Pacifasticus leniusculus. The American crayfish was imported during the 1970s by farmers but readily escapes from enclosures and can travel considerable distances overland.

The native white-clawed crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes, has no resistance to the fungus disease spread by the American species which is also larger and more competitive than the British one.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food now proposes to create no-go areas for foreign crayfish. Farmers will not be allowed to keep foreign crayfish in areas where there are important populations of native crayfish, or in areas where foreign species might be a threat to the environment.

The proposed no-go areas are: Northumbria, Yorkshire, North West, Severn, Trent, Wales, Scotland and particular river systems in southern England. Crayfish would be permitted in these areas only for human consumption and would have to be killed within 72 hours of arrival.