Agency throws crayfish lifeline
Nov. 6, 2007
The Evening Chronicle, Newcastle

Fighting chance for rare species to recover with our help sponsored by Environment Agency

RARE crayfish are making a return to a river after they were wiped out by a toxic spill.

An estimated 2,000 white-clawed crayfish died last year after farm silage and slurry leached into the Rob-sheugh Burn, a tributary of the River Pont, in Northumberland.

A recent survey by Environment Agency experts found the crayfish population is starting to recover, although there is still a way to go.

It was in August last year that a farmer upstream in the burn's catchment area caused silage and slurry to enter the stream, killing the crayfish and hundreds of fish, including sticklebacks, minnows and stone loach.

The Environment Agency responded quickly to investigate the source of the incident and managed to rescue about 300 crayfish which were released back into the burn once tests confirmed the water quality had improved.

Following the incident, the farmer was prosecuted in July this year.

He was fined 2,000 plus costs of 1,641 at Bedlington Magistrates' Court.

He was also ordered to pay the Environment Agency incident response costs of 4,000.

A survey carried out last month by ecologist Russ Barber, confirmed that the crayfish are starting to recover in this area, however it will be several more years before the numbers fully recover.

Russ said: "It was great to find there are some crayfish in the burn. It will probably take a few years, but the population should be able to recover fully.

"Our local white-clawed crayfish are recognised as being of international conservation importance, and we have a duty to protect them."

The crayfish in Northumberland are among the most important in the world, as the creature is internationally recognised as being seriously endangered.

The area is one of the few areas where native white-clawed crayfish have not been threatened by pollution, disease and competition from invasive American signal crayfish which spread very rapidly endangering other species.