UK’s only native species of crayfish moved to new homes in bid to protect species

On the move - Environment Agency monitoring officer Emma Holden helps transfer native crayfish to a protected Ark Site, safe from the threat of invasive Signals
On the move - Environment Agency monitoring officer Emma Holden helps transfer native crayfish to a protected Ark Site, safe from the threat of invasive Signals
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Efforts to protect the UK’s only native species of crayfish have seen almost 600 specimens moved to protected new homes in the area.

The endangered white-clawed crayfish have been transferred to two secluded locations, chosen for their potential as safe havens.

Known as ‘Ark Sites’, the refuges have all the characteristics needed for the crayfish to establish a thriving colony, including good-quality water, suitable habitat, and an isolated location. Most importantly, they will be safe from the threat of their non-native counterparts, the North American Signal crayfish. This invasive species out-competes for food and habitat, and carries a fungal disease that devastates native populations.

Dr Chris Extence, Environment Agency team leader for analysis and reporting, said: “Bringing our native crayfish into the safety of an Ark Site is vital to protecting them from these threats, safeguarding their long-term survival and stability.”

White-clawed crayfish are the only native species of crayfish in Britain. Although protected by law, numbers have declined dramatically in recent years and established populations are becoming increasingly vulnerable.

In Lincolnshire, the Upper Witham has long been a stronghold for native crayfish, but they are increasingly under threat from Signals.

In total, 572 specimens were moved into two undisclosed locations in Lincolnshire two weeks ago: a limestone stream in the county’s south west and a chalk stream in the Wolds.