Bury St Edmunds: Community urged to tackle invasive crayfish

Invasive American signal crayfish

Invasive American signal crayfish - Credit: Archant

Environment Agency officials have told people living in west Suffolk to think of invasive American signal crayfish as wild food like “blackberries” in an attempt to eradicate them from the area’s waterways.

Richard Bowen, the region’s catchment manager for the water framework directive for the agency, said tackling invasive species and increasing water flow on the River Lark were serious issues that need to be addressed.

Speaking at a meeting of the Bury Water Meadows Group on Thursday evening, Mr Bowen said the River Lark had become famous for harbouring one of the largest populations of American crayfish in the UK - a species that outcompetes and spreads disease to the native white-clawed crayfish.

“It is omnivorous, it will eat anything; it is relentless. You can take them out of water and leave them in the sun for three months and they won’t die. They can walk a 1km in a day and they’ve been known to work in teams, forming pyramids to climb out.”

Mr Bowen said erosion caused by burrowing crustaceans weakened banks and led gravel river beds to become choked with silt. He added the Environment Agency are keen to help people get the licences needed to trap and monitor the species.

He said: “Defra doesn’t like us to recommend eating them but we have got to find someway to create the demand for this foodstuff that is there in vast quantities, this wild food. It’s like Blackberries, but in the water.”

Mr Bowen said the Environment Agency is also due to meet with MP David Ruffley and business leaders at the end of the month to discuss how the “serious issue” of water abstraction from the Lark could could be resolved. Approximately 1.3million cubic litres a year is used businesses and a further 8.5million is used by the farming community.