NPWS calls for public support in dealing with Invasive Species and Disease

Press Release issued by Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht 20/05/19

NPWS calls for public support in dealing with Invasive Alien Species and Disease

The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht’s National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) – along with The Marine Institute –  have  re-issued a warning to all water users in Ireland about the severe and increasing threat to our native Crayfish species.

Ireland holds one of the largest populations of the globally-endangered White-clawed Crayfish.

This threat comes from the twin impact of disease and invasive alien species, which have been identified as one of the five most important causes of biodiversity loss on a global scale and as an increasing negative driver in Ireland with a significant economic impact.

Ahead of their joint seminar on the conservation of the White-clawed Crayfish in Ireland and the management of Crayfish Plague taking place in Galway on 21st of May, the NPWS and the Marine Institute have re-issued their call for the public to take responsible action and to follow guidelines under the Check-Clean-Dry protocols.

This warning comes after the confirmation this spring of Crayfish Plague on the River Maigue, upstream of Adare. This is the seventh river affected by the disease.  It is predicted the disease will wipe out the crayfish from the river system.

The NPWS has also been made aware of a stock of a non-native crayfish being held in an aquarium. The animals which were voluntarily handed over were Marbled Crayfish.  The keeping, selling and breeding of this species is banned under recent legislation.

The NPWS can also confirm that a population of a non-native crayfish species has been found for the first time in the wild in Ireland.

There has always been a concern that non-native crayfish species may become established in Ireland and this has now been confirmed by the discovery of a population of an Australian Crayfish, the Yabby, Cherax destructor. The site is not being disclosed at this time.

Brian Nelson, Invertebrate Ecologist with the Department’s National Parks and  Wildlife Service says “the discovery of the non-native crayfish species in the wild is of concern as this has never been found before in Ireland. Although the species is one we would not have predicted, it presents us with a greater challenge of eradicating the species.. We would like to emphasise the growing threat that alien invasive species are having on biodiversity in Ireland and globally and we urge everyone to think carefully and help in its prevention. For the most invasive species, there is now specific legislation in place which bans possession and keeping and gives the NPWS powers to seize specimens and eradicate them from the wild.”

The NPWS are reminding pet shops – and those with aquariums – that the keeping and importing of five of the most invasive species is now illegal. If anyone has specimens they should contact NPWS immediately.

Notes for Editors

  • The legislation covering importing and keeping of non-native crayfish species is S.I. No. 354/2018 – European Union (Invasive Alien Species) (Freshwater Crayfish) Regulations 2018. The species listed in this are Spiny-cheek crayfish Orconectes limosus, Virile crayfish Orconectes virilis, Signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus, Red swamp crayfish Procambarus clarkii and Marbled crayfish Procambarus fallax virginalis. It is an offence to sell, keep, import, breed or release into the wild any of these species. The legislation gives the Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht powers to seize and destroy any specimens of this species and to eradicate any wild populations.
  • The rivers affected by Crayfish Plague are the River Bruskey/Erne (Co Cavan; detected 2015); Rover Suir (Co Tipperary/Waterford, detected 2017); River Deel (Co Limerick, 2017), River Barrow (Co Carlow 2017); River Lorrha (Co Tipperary, 2017), River Al (Westmeath 2018), River Maigue (Co Limerick 2019). There was also an outbreak in Co Tyrone in Northern Ireland in 2018.
  • The Yabby Cherax destructor is an Australian species of crayfish. It has been sold as an aquarium animal but has also been spread from its native range by aquaculture. A small number of introduced populations have been recorded in Europe in Spain and France. As the species is normally sensitive to low winter temperatures and needs high summer temperatures to breed, the presence of it in Ireland is surprising.
  • Check, Clean, Dry, Be Pet Wise and Be Plant Wise are information campaigns. More details can be found here https://invasivespeciesireland.com/what-can-i-do/invasive-species-week-2019/
  • Invasive Alien species have been identified as one of the five most important causes of biodiversity loss on a global scale. [Source IPBES Global Assessment of Biodiversity ipbes.net] and is identified as an increasing negative driver in Ireland with a significant economic impact [Source National Biodiversity Action Plan 2017-2021 https://www.npws.ie/sites/default/files/publications/pdf/National%20Biodiversity%20Action%20Plan%20English.pdf]
  • Invasive Species Week is being held 13-17 May 2019
  • The Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and the Marine Institute are holding a seminar on the conservation of the White-clawed Crayfish in Ireland and the management of Crayfish Plague on 21/22 May with invited speakers from Europe.
  • Additional information on the Crayfish Plague outbreaks in Ireland including distribution maps see: www.biodiversityireland.ie/projects/invasive-species/crayfish-plague/ 
  • Any suspected sighting of a non-native crayfish species or of sightings of many dead or dying native White-clawed crayfish should be reported with photos if possible: https://records.biodiversityireland.ie/record/invasives