Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Invasive Chinese mitten crab found in Scotland prompts salmon fears

Hairy crab remains found in the Clyde lead to warnings the invasive species could have devastating impacts on Scottish fish, Friday 26 September 2014 09.23 BST

The Chinese mitten crab, one of the 100 worst alien invaders in the world according to conservationists, appears to have arrived in Scotland for the first time.

Remains of one of the ‘hairy crabs’, named because of a hair-like covering on their claws, was found in the river Clyde in June. Experts have said it could have a “devastating” impact on Scotland’s salmon, which is a crucial export for the country.

The crabs (Eriocheir sinensis) have already spread across many of England’s waterways, including the Thames and as far north as the Tyne, since the first recorded sighting in 1935. They are believed to have arrived via shipping. One study showed the rate of their spread speeding up, from colonising 48 miles of coastline a year between 1976 and 1999, to 278 miles each year between 1997 and 1999.

But the discovery by the Clyde River Foundation of a single specimen is the first evidence the invasive species has crossed north of the border. As well as outcompeting other marine life, they cause erosion by damaging riverbanks and impact infrastructure such as dykes when they burrow into them. Research by the Natural History Museum has shown they can eat salmon and trout eggs.

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