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Breeding Programme Boosts Endangered Crayfish

UK - White-clawed crayfish numbers have been devastated by disease and competition from an American species.

A breeding programme has boosted the numbers of an endangered species of British crayfish, reports The Guardian.

The white-clawed crayfish is threatened by a deadly "crayfish plague" and competition from a brash American cousin that was introduced to the country in the late 1970s. The conservation project, launched in 2003 in the Yorkshire Dales, has produced 300 juveniles this year – making it the UK's most successful breeding programme for the native species.

The white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) was once common in upland rivers and streams, favouring hard-water areas in particular. But its numbers have been devastated by a virulent plague caused by a fungus that was almost certainly brought to this country by the North American signal crayfish – a species that has been farmed in the UK for the seafood trade since the late 1970s.

Now the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List of endangered species rates the native white-clawed crayfish as vulnerable to extinction – just two categories away from being critically endangered.

the Fish Site Editor

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