[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Monday, 22 October 2007, 14:42 GMT 15:42 UK
Crayfish plague spreads to river
White-clawed crayfish
The white claw is the UK's only native species of freshwater crayfish
A highly contagious crayfish plague which is lethal to Britain's only native species has broken out.

The Environment Agency has confirmed aphanomyces astaci in the River Waveney that forms the Suffolk/Norfolk border.

This fungal disease is lethal to native white-clawed crayfish already under pressure from immune American signal crayfish introduced in the 1980s.

Native crayfish have been wiped out in many rivers by the much larger signals with whom they compete for food.

'Most concerned'

Over recent weeks hundreds of Turkish crayfish, another introduced species, have been found dead on the river near Beccles.

Fungal infection has wiped out large numbers of native and non-immune species since it was brought to the UK in the 1980s by the American signal crayfish.

Amanda Elliott, spokeswoman for the Environment Agency, said tests had confirmed an outbreak of aphanomyces astaci, the fungal disease commonly known as crayfish plague.

Measures are now being put in place to try to prevent any spread, particularly to rivers populated by the native British white-clawed crayfish.

Ms Elliott said: "What we are most concerned about is preventing the disease spreading to another river system. Luckily, there are no British white-clawed crayfish recorded in the River Waveney."

Eaten alive

River users are being urged to thoroughly clean equipment before using it in other waterways, she added.

Signals are immune to the infection, which they carry on their shells, but white-clawed crayfish cannot fight the fungus which spreads through their body and eats them alive.

Remote bodies of water known as 'Ark' sites have been sought out to maintain the native species across the UK, such as the River Glaven in North Norfolk.

Julia Stansfield of the Environment Agency said: "We're really worried about the disease getting into other rivers and especially the Wensum where there's a good strong population of native crayfish still present.

"If it starts getting into other rivers as well it's possible that we could see no more native crayfish in East Anglia."

VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
River users are being asked to disinfect equipment



SEE ALSO
Endangered species given new home
12 Aug 06 |  Somerset

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific