Mayors issue joint call to protect Co Antrim’s native crayfish

The mayors of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough and Mid and East Antrim Borough are urging both the public and the angling community in particular to play their part in keeping County Antrim free of a waterborne infection that threatens a native species.

A collaboration between the biodiversity officers of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough and Mid and East Antrim Borough and the Six Mile Rivers Trust has already been initiated to determine the distribution of native White-clawed Crayfish in river environments.

Councillor Billy Ashe, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough said this internationally important species is Ireland’s only crayfish species.

Pictured issuing the joint call to protect our native species are from left: Maurice Turley, Biodiversity Officer, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; Gerry Wilson, Lower Neagh Bann Catchment Officer, Northern Ireland Environment Agency; Councillor Billy Ashe, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough; Councillor Thomas Hogg, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough; Ray Bennet, Six Mile Water Trust and Ruth Wilson, Biodiversity Officer, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough.

Pictured issuing the joint call to protect our native species are from left: Maurice Turley, Biodiversity Officer, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council; Gerry Wilson, Lower Neagh Bann Catchment Officer, Northern Ireland Environment Agency; Councillor Billy Ashe, Mayor of Mid and East Antrim Borough; Councillor Thomas Hogg, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough; Ray Bennet, Six Mile Water Trust and Ruth Wilson, Biodiversity Officer, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough.

“It has limited distribution and had not previously been known in the Six Mile Water or anywhere in Co Antrim. The species was first discovered in the river by staff from the Fish Station at Bushmills, whilst carrying out routine sampling in the river,” he said.

Cllr Ashe backed the call to action near waterways and added: “The only means of protecting our native crayfish is to prevent the introduction and spread of the disease.

“Members of the public and anglers are asked to report immediately any mass mortalities of crayfish as well as sightings of unusual crayfish, and in particular, to dry and disinfect boots and angling equipment before moving from one body of water to another.”

Until recently, Ireland had been free of crayfish plague and is the only European country without any established non-native crayfish species, however a recent outbreak from Co Cavan, on the Erne system has put native crayfish under threat.

“The Six Mile Water is a river rich in biodiversity and is noted for its Salmon, Dollaghan trout, Otter, Kingfisher, Dippers, Grey Wagtail and River Water Crowfoot,” added Councillor Thomas Hogg, Mayor of Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough.

Appealing for river users to take care, he added: “Crayfish plague can be introduced from contaminated equipment and is carried by non-native crayfish species that are resistant to the disease.

“The introduction of non-native species is illegal and the white-clawed crayfish has already been completely eliminated from much of Great Britain and mainland Europe.

“If the recent outbreak of crayfish plague was caused by the introduction of non-native crayfish, there is a real danger it will become established throughout the country with irreversible ecological impact,” he warned.

“Do not bring foreign crayfish into Ireland, or purchase or release foreign species of crayfish in Ireland for any reason.

“If you are involved in angling, be on the lookout for anyone who might use imported crayfish as bait.

“Always dry fishing gear fully between usages on different water bodies. If you can’t dry it, disinfect it with a dilute bleach solution,” Cllr Hogg said, adding that pet shops should not buy in or sell crayfish either.

  • The native white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes look like small, brownish lobsters and this special species is listed under Annex II of the EU Habitats Directive.
  • If anyone suspects foreign crayfish are in a lake or river, they should contact the Northern Ireland Environment Agency on 028 9054 0540
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