Crayfish Trappers Warned

Dec. 6, 2007
Eastern Daily Press

Crayfish trappers could face fines of up to 5,000 if they do not make their traps safe for otters, a local wildlife group warned last night.

Traps are set on rivers in East Anglia to catch signal crayfish, usually to be eaten, but some of the traps being used allow otters to swim in, where they then get stuck and drown.

The Environment Agency, which licenses the catching of crayfish, has recently investigated four separate reports of otters drowning in traps in East Anglia, including a mother otter and two cubs in Cambridgeshire.

The agency states that traps should have an opening of no more than 95mm, which is too small for an otter to get through. Traps which are too big can be covered by a metal wire panel over the front with a hole cut out which is big enough for crayfish but which will keep otters out.

Suffolk Wildlife Trust has been working to reintroduce otters into rivers in the county, particularly in the River Waveney, and wetland wildlife officer Penny Hemphill said that the otter population is at risk from careless crayfish trappers.

She said: gOtters as well as people find crayfish a tasty delicacy so they will eagerly enter a crayfish trap to eat the contents, only to find they are unable to escape and subsequently drown.

gIf an otter is trapped by accident and killed in this unpleasant way, the trapper is inadvertently breaking the law and could be fined up to 5,000 for killing a species protected by European and UK law.

gIt would be a great pity if the species' recovery was thwarted by such an unconsidered practice. By ensuring a crayfish trap is fitted with a simple guard, the needless killing of our region's otters can be stopped in its tracks.h

Anyone catching crayfish needs a licence from the Environment Agency and permission from the owner of the river bank.