Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Celebrity Chefs Take Blame for Threat to North Crayfish

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Celebrity Chefs Take Blame for Threat to North Crayfish

Article excerpt

COOKS in the North East who want to make a meal of protecting the region's native crayfish were told yesterday to forget it.

They are being were urged to ignore celebrity chefs and keep the invasive American signal crayfish off the menu.

The River Wansbeck in Northumberland is one of the last strongholds of native white-clawed crayfish in England.

But the aggressive signal crayfish is now in rivers both north and south of the Wansbeck - surrounding the native species in a pincer movement.

Signal crayfish have been in the River Blyth for some time but now Environment Agency staff have also found them in the River Coquet, and are appealing to people to help them halt the invasion - by leaving them alone.

Biodiversity officer Anne Lewis said increasing numbers of people are ringing for permission to trap signals so they can eat them.

However, in the North East Defra has a ban on trapping crayfish to protect the vulnerable native population. Only a few trapping requests are granted each year in the North East for research purposes.

Anne said: "There has been considerable interest in trapping crayfish for the pot, with celebrity chefs promoting the trapping of crayfish in the wild and using them in dishes.

"I know it seems tempting, but don't catch crayfish. People think that taking adult signals will help reduce the population, but it doesn't work like that.

"Signals are cannibals which eat their own young. If you trap the adults then there are fewer predators to cull the next generation.

"Without plenty of adults to control numbers, there can be a population explosion which can spread to new parts of the river.

"In the North East we still have native populations which are holding out against the invasion, and we want to keep it that way."

American signal crayfish first arrived in the UK's rivers in the 1970s after escaping from fish farms where they were bred for the restaurant trade. …

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