This page contains a Flash digital edition of a book. Conservation & the Environment An American Invasion American signal crayfish invade Northumberland ENVIRONMENT AGENCY

A joint appeal by the Environment Agency, Natural England, Northumberland Rivers Trust and Northumberland Wildlife Trust has been made for help to stop the spread of invasive American signal crayfish in Northumberland.

A large population of American signal crayfish have been confirmed in the River Blyth - a blow for our internationally important population of native white-clawed crayfish on the neighbouring River Wansbeck.

To safeguard our native crayfish, anglers and other river users are being urged to stop the spread of the signal crayfish, and the plague it carries, by following three simple steps: Check, Clean and Dry.

The American species of crayfish is bigger,

more aggressive and out-competes our native crayfish. More importantly it also carries a fungal disease known as crayfish plague that has wiped out our native crayfish from most rivers in the south of England.

Because they are larger than our native species, signal crayfish can have a significant impact on fisheries by eating fish eggs and also increasing the erosion of river banks through their burrowing.

Fiona Morris, fisheries and biodiversity team leader at the Environment Agency, said: “We don’t yet know how far the signal crayfish have spread, but the numbers we have found recently are not good news. It is impossible to totally eradicate populations of signal crayfish. All we can do now is try our best to contain them and stop them from spreading, to help protect our native crayfish.

“We’re calling on all river users and anglers who fish the River Blyth to help us by Checking, Cleaning and Drying all their fishing tackle and footwear thoroughly, so that we can halt the spread of the disease that the signal crayfish carry.

“In the North East we still have native populations which are holding out against the invasion, and we want to keep it that way.”

scued & Rare Dragonfly discovered Phil Smith, fisheries and biodiversity

officer, said: “Great crested newt numbers have fallen dramatically over the last century mainly as a result of a loss of ponds and intensive agriculture. They are now strictly protected and the Market Rasen Flood Storage Reservoir area has now been recorded as being home to these endangered amphibians. “This discovery provides important information about the species’ distribution and all future works on the site will be subject to approval by Natural England.”

Great crested newts are the largest of the UK's three native species, which also include smooth and palmate newts. The great crested newt is significantly larger than the other two species and grows up to 15cm in length. It also has a much heavier looking body.

The newts are dark brown or black and have ‘warty’ skin. Their underside is bright orange with irregular black blotches and males develop an impressive jagged crest along their back and a white 'flash' along the tail during the spring breeding season.

Their protected status makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly kill, injure, capture or disturb them and to damage or destroy their habitat.

Peter Kerr from the Northumberland Rivers Trust said: “We must do all we can to stop signal crayfish getting into the Wansbeck, where their effect will be devastating on the native population. We would ask all anglers and river users to follow the Check, Clean Dry Campaign.”

Although it is legal to catch crayfish with a licence in other parts of the country, requests for a licence in the North East are rejected to protect vulnerable native crayfish populations.

Scientific evidence has shown that small scale trapping can make the situation worse for our native crayfish. Large male signal crayfish tend to be caught in the traps and, because they also cannibalise young crayfish, larger males can help to control the population size. In some areas where trapping has occurred there has been an increase in the numbers of signal crayfish over subsequent years. Trapping can also increase the risk of spreading signal crayfish and the plague they carry. A byelaw for trapping crayfish in England and Wales came into force in 2005, which restricted the accidental or deliberate movement of alien crayfish and 'crayfish plague', whilst still allowing the legitimate trapping of the crustaceans in some postcode areas. None of these are in the north of England.

ENVIRONMENT AGENCY as discovered during routine works in Market Rasen, Lincolnshire and a rare dragonfly has been discovered on the River Nene

fish using the area to spawn. Now, we have also noted the appearance of the scarce chaser dragonfly. “This is great news and shows that the project is already helping to improve this stretch of the River Nene.”

The rare dragonfly was been discovered on the River Nene following Environment Agency work to improve habitat.

The scarce chaser dragonfly (Libellula fulva) was discovered on Castor Backwater, near to the villages of Castor and Ailsworth, during a survey to assess how effective a restoration project there had been.

Chris Extence, Environment Monitoring Team Leader, said: “We are monitoring our river restoration project on Castor Backwater to see how successful it has been. We have already received good feedback from local anglers about

The scare chaser dragonfly is native to the UK. It is officially recognised as being rare and the species is deemed to be of national importance. Chris said: “We have only found this species once before on the Nene, a single specimen being found at Lilford Bridge in 2007. This new finding is of considerable importance as it shows that other parts of the river, with suitable habitat, are capable of supporting breeding populations of

this rare and very attractive dragonfly.”

The Castor Backwater restoration project was carried out by the Environment Agency with support from the Nene Park Trust. It aimed to protect and improve important wildlife and coarse fish habitat and included repairing and re- profiling the river’s banks, installing fencing and cattle-drinkers and creating two fish-refuge ponds. The ponds provide areas for fish to shelter from high flows. Newly installed gravel on the river bed has provided much needed spawning habitat for fish.


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