Crayfish R&D Blog

The white-clawed crayfish Austropotamobius pallipes or WCCs are protected in the UK through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended) under schedule 5 where both the taking S.9(1) and the sale S.9(5) is illegal. They are also protected under European law in the Bern convention 1979 as an Appendix III species. UK Distribution is wide, and includes sporadic sites across Southern, Eastern and South-Western England with higher densities in the Midlands, Northern England, Northern Ireland and South-Eastern Wales

Within the UK, WCCs major threat is that of introduced species. Currently there are six known introduced crayfish within the United Kingdom with two additional species potentially at large due to their current presence in the pet trade. In addition to interspecific competition, four of the introduced species, are known to carry crayfish plague (CP) Aphanomyces astaci. 

The most notorious carrier is the signal crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus thought to have arrived in the UK from North America via Sweden as a result of the 1960s/70s fish trade . Signal crayfish can now be found throughout the United Kingdom in relatively high numbers and is having a major impact on our native white-clawed.

At NatureMetrics, one of our current projects under R&D is testing and developing assays for the detection of both crayfish and crayfish plague. Here you can see our first attempts to identify these from tissue, swab and eDNA samples.  From the graphs shown above, you can see we have made great progress in advancing these assays with evidence demonstrating that we can identify both signal crayfish (top image) and crayfish plague (bottom image)  from all sample types. We hope to eventually make these tests available to our customers, so WATCH THIS SPACE!

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