Native crayfish make a comeback in Lincolnshire

Linda Pitkin/2020VISION

The first transfer in the county of white-clawed crayfish has been hailed a success as the protected species is now breeding in its new location.

The UK's only native species of crayfish is making a comeback in Lincolnshire thanks to efforts by the Environment Agency together with partners from Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project, Greater Lincolnshire Nature PartnershipLincolnshire Rivers Trust and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust.

Last year, almost 600 white-clawed crayfish were moved to protected new locations in the Lincolnshire Wolds. Now, recent river surveys have found baby white-clawed crayfish, proving that the species is now breeding again in Lincolnshire.

The release locations are known as 'Ark Sites', and are carefully selected locations which have all the characteristics needed for the crayfish to establish a thriving colony, including good-quality water, suitable habitat and an isolation location.

Most importantly, in these selected locations they are protected from their non-native counterparts, the North American signal crayfish. This invasive species out-competes our own for food and habitat, and carries a fungal disease that devastates native populations. Following its accidental release in the 1970s, our native white-clawed crayfish have been in decline ever since.

Crayfish release in Lincolnshire

From left to right, Alex Pickwell (Environment Agency), Marie Taylor (Lincolnshire Rivers Trust), Clare Sterling (Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust) and Sarah Baker (Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership).

By working with partners such as the Lincolnshire Chalk Streams Project (LCSP) and the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust, the Environment Agency is seeking to secure the future of white-clawed crayfish 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, so preserving them is yet another example of how we’re protecting our environment for the future. I’m thrilled that our efforts at protecting them have been so successful.
Richard Chadd
Environment Agency

Collectively, non-native invasive species cost the UK economy an estimated £1.7b every year. Everyone can do their part to prevent the spread of invasive species and protect native ones by taking care to follow the biosecurity steps of thoroughly checking, cleaning and drying your clothes and equipment any time you’ve been in the water. You can get more information from the Non-native Species Secretariat.