Protecting key species in Northumberland

The banks of the River Wansbeck played host to the launch of a strategy that aims to help protect one of the region’s best-loved resident species.

Tuesday, 1st October 2019, 12:12 pm
Updated Thursday, 3rd October 2019, 15:06 pm
Ian Marshall checks a crayfish trap on the River Wansbeck. Picture by Sound Ideas/EA.

The Northumberland Crayfish Conservation Steering Group unveiled the Northumberland Crayfish Conservation Strategy last Friday in the grounds of Meldon Park.

It was developed by the Northumberland Catchment Partnership and will be delivered by the steering group, which is made up of the following partnership organisations: the Environment Agency, Northumberland Rivers Trust, National Trust, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, Natural England, Northumbrian Water Group, Northumberland County Council, Tyne Rivers Trust and Northumberland National Park Authority.

Northumberland has some of the best populations of white-clawed crayfish in the country.

This is the only species of freshwater crayfish native to the UK.

The species provides food for otters, fish and herons, whilst also being responsible for helping to break down leaf litter and plant growth.

However, it is at risk of being lost from the region and the two-page strategy shows a framework setting out what will happen to enable the steering group to target its conservation efforts to best effect, such as identifying potential river or pond habitat improvements and developing safe havens.

It also says that ‘involving river users, river managers and the wider public will be essential if we are to reduce risks to white-clawed crayfish populations’.

Ian Marshall, water, biodiversity technical specialist at the Environment Agency, said: “Their main threat is the spread of non-native crayfish species, which out compete our white-clawed crayfish, and an aquatic mould carried by these invasive species named crayfish plague.

“Although it is harmless to humans, it causes 100 per cent mortality in our native crayfish populations.

“We humans can prevent its spread by not moving crayfish around, as well as properly checking, cleaning and drying equipment such as wellingtons, nets, boats or other equipment.”