The discovery was made during a fish survey for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, in conjunction with an AFBI led INTERREG IVa funded DOLMANT Project focussing on the development of lake management tools.
The Bloody Red Shrimp was first discovered in Ireland in 2008 in the Shannon River catchment. Since then it has expanded its range into the Erne catchment where researchers on the DOLMANT project found several individual shrimp in the stomach contents of Perch.
Kevin Gallagher, fish biologist at AFBI, explains: “The Bloody Red Shrimp is distinctive from the native shrimp species due to its orangey red transparent colouration and unlike similar native species it can be observed swarming in shaded areas during the day. Red swarms of the shrimp have been seen in marinas throughout the Shannon River.”
Dr Robert Rosell, senior fish biologist at AFBI, comments on this significant find: “This species is similar to the established non-native zebra mussel that originated in the Ponto-Caspian region of Eastern Europe and has gradually spread westward. Once introduced into the river system here it has expanded its range probably as a result of leisure craft moving between river catchments via the Shannon-Erne canal.”
DOLMANT Project leader Dr Yvonne McElarney explains that, as with other invasive species, the main concern of the Bloody Red Shrimp is the potential adverse impact on the ecology of a lake. She commented: “This species is known as a voracious predator that has the potential to have a serious impact on plankton composition.
Findings such as this underpin the importance that the DOLMANT project has on understanding the lake ecosystem and the impact of change in lakes”.
The Northern Ireland Environment Agency works in partnership with agencies north and south to implement management plans to reduce the impact of Invasive Alien Species on native Biodiversity.
Stephen Foster from NIEA added: “Invasive alien species are widely recognised as one of the greatest threats to our native biodiversity. Once an invasive species has established within a habitat its spread can be rapid, out-competing native species. It is extremely important that we all do that we can to minimise the risk of spreading or introducing non-native invasive species.”