THE nation’s anglers are being urged to help keep the UK’s delicate waterways in balance by assisting in the clampdown on the spread of harmful non-native species.
More than 50 different invasive species have already been found in our lakes and rivers, and the number of new arrivals is increasing rapidly. As well as damaging ecosystems, they kill native fish by spreading diseases and reducing oxygen levels in the water, as well as out-competing other native wildlife.
Last week the EA issued a call for people to report sightings of the invasive plant floating pennywort, which is choking rivers and streams across the country, but it’s not the only non-native species running riot in our lakes and rivers. An increasing number of clubs are now reporting problems with Chinese mitten crabs, with Peterborough and District AA being the latest to do so.
Now the Angling Trust is calling upon the angling community to help halt the march of this army of alien invaders by filling in a survey to report sightings of non-native species, and also to adhere to the biosecurity measures needed to stop their spread.
Mark Owen, the Trust’s Head of Freshwater, said:
“The survey is all about biosecurity awareness, and making sure that anglers, fisheries and fishing clubs are abreast of the best practice to stop the spread of these species. We ran a similar survey a few years ago, so this latest one will allow us to gauge how we’re progressing, and which areas within angling – game, coarse, sea – are doing well, and which aren’t.
“It’s also a valuable tool to show government how responsible anglers are at addressing issues that the whole population should be worried about.
“For example, there are a whole host of new invasive species that are sitting in Europe and could be transferred to our waters unless we’re careful. That’s why part of the survey asks anglers about their foreign fishing travels.”
Many of the destructive non-native species living in the UK’s waterways are now so widespread that they cannot be eradicated, signal crayfish being a prime example. But fishery scientist Paul Garner says that the spread of some of the more worrying recent arrivals, such as the so-called killer shrimp, can be halted if all anglers become more biosecurity aware.
“We’re facing an uphill battle against invasive species, because once they become established it’s difficult to eradicate them and, in some cases, impossible,” Paul said.
“With signal crayfish, we are able to trap and manage populations in lakes to a certain degree, but with species like the killer shrimp, detection is a major issue in the first place. They can survive for days in wet nets and in boat bilge tanks, and are easy to transfer, without anglers being any the wiser.
“Our rivers are facing enough problems in the shape of pollution and abstraction, so anglers can help to play a pivotal role in protecting them from further damage by knowing their responsibilities with regard to invasive species, and helping pass on the message about biosecurity.”