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Slowing The Rapid Decline Of Native Crayfish

UK - Hundreds of native crayfish have been released by the Environment Agency at a secret site in Cornwall, to help slow the rapid decline of the species.

White clawed crayfish, which are native to the UK, are now seriously endangered, thanks to the spread of their cousins from across the pond – the much larger and more aggressive American signal crayfish.

To help ensure that the species does not die out completely on these shores, the Environment Agency in Wales is now breeding native crayfish at its fish hatchery near Brecon. Agency experts found a suitable site in Cornwall to release them – where they are safe from American crayfish and other threats, such as fishing. They were released last week.

‘The juvenile crayfish in our breeding unit at Cynrig have thrived beyond all expectations. Our 75 per cent survival rate meant that we released a number of crayfish at a site in Wales last year to allow room for the others to grow,' said Oliver Brown for the Environment Agency.

‘We have searched for safe havens across England and Wales for crayfish populations, and hope to take our breeding programme further so that ultimately we can release more of this threatened species back into the wild.’

The new crayfish programme is one of several projects that the Environment Agency has undertaken to help preserve endangered species in the UK. Last month the Agency moved 25,000 Vendace, a fish that has lived in the UK since the ice age, to cooler waters up a mountain in Cumbria, to safeguard them from the warming effects of climate change.

It has also bred pearl mussels – another endangered species that has been around since the ice age – to release into rivers in Northumberland. And populations of the once critically endangered water vole are on the rise again following Environment Agency efforts to improve habitats and the release of hundreds of captive bred voles back into the wild.

Head of Fisheries and Biodiversity, Geoff Bateman, said: ‘We are taking action now to conserve the existing populations of some of the UK’s most endangered species. With the increasing threats of invasive species and the warming effects of climate change we’ll be taking more steps like this to ensure that species native to the UK survive into the future.’

On 19 May 2011 the Environment Agency, Buglife and the Invertebrate Conservation Trust launched a new crayfish website for professionals and members of the public. The new web resource will enable different organisations to co-ordinate their crayfish conservation work so that more populations can be saved.

the Fish Site Editor

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