“In recent years, I have developed something of a fascination with crayfish, particularly the plight of the UK’s native white-clawed crayfish, Austropotamobius pallipes,” Pete told the magazine. “Many of us have seen crayfish in UK rivers and quite a few of us may have eaten them too. For most of us, our only interaction with crayfish will have been with non-native species, most probably the signal crayfish, Pacifastacus leniusculus. Few of us will have ever had the chance to see our native white-clawed crayfish however…”
Pete went on to explain why the white-clawed crayfish is endangered and ways in which we can protect them. These include habitat degradation, water quality and abstraction, which can all be reduced by modifying human activities.
Predators are another reason for the white-clawed crayfish’s decline. Natural predators include otter, herons, trout and chub.
The final threats for native crayfish, Pete said, are invasive non-native crayfish. Non-native species include spiny cheek, virile, marbled, noble, Turkish, red swamp and, most prolific, the signal crayfish.
“Currently, the only feasible option for our remaining white-clawed crayfish populations is to safeguard surviving populations and, if possible, establish new ‘ark’ sites. Ark sites are places where white-clawed crayfish do not currently occur but where they are likely to establish if introduced. The future for white-clawed crayfish in the UK, and probably throughout its known range, looks rather bleak. However, despite the possible feeling that we are fighting a losing battle, there remain sufficient options to conserve this species if we can only secure the budget to continue to protect existing sites and to develop a network of ark sites. It is not time to give up the fight just yet, but perhaps it is the time to start fighting harder,” Pete concludes.