How the Wolds is leading the fight against American bully

Surveying the crayfish's new home in a chalk stream in the Wolds.
Surveying the crayfish's new home in a chalk stream in the Wolds.

It’s future is under threat from an American ‘bully’... and and we are not talking about Donald Trump either!

Instead, it a threatened species of native crayfish which is making a comeback locally thanks to the efforts of the Environment Agency and local conservation groups.

A young native crayfish.

A young native crayfish.

Last July, 600 white-clawed crayfish were moved from locations in the River Witham – where they’re at risk of being wiped out by invasive signal crayfish from America – to new remote locations... including a chalk stream in the Wolds.

Now, surveys show the transfer – the first in the county – has been successful, and the crayfish have started to breed.

The native white-clawed crayfish have been in decline since bigger and stronger American signal crayfish 
escaped into UK waters in the 1970s.

The larger crayfish outcompete native species for food and habitat and carry a disease fatal to the UK species.

But working with partners such as the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project (LCSP) and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency is seeking to secure their future by relocating them to areas free of the invaders in a scheme known as the ‘ark project.’

Richard Chadd, senior environmental monitoring officer with the Environment Agency said: “These crayfish are a vital part of our ecology.

“Preserving them is yet another example of how we’re protecting our environment for the future.”

“Having personally worked on this project – physically picking up these crayfish, measuring them, checking their health and relocating them to their new homes – I’m thrilled that our efforts at protecting them have been so successful.”

The LCSP also confirmed that after the success of the River Witham project, they are looking into supporting the EA at other locations.

Ruth Craig, Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project Officer, said: “We jumped at the chance to support this EA-led initiative.

“We offered up some potential sites and once they were all assessed, we were excited to hear one of the chalk streams had scored as highly suitable.

“The hard work doesn’t end here!

“We plan to continue identifying further possible locations, supporting the work of the EA.”