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Page last updated at 16:08 GMT, Thursday, 1 July 2010 17:08 UK
American lobsters threaten Sussex fishing grounds

By Chris Bennett
BBC Sussex

American lobster (Homarus americanus)
American invaders threaten local Sussex lobsters

if the bacteria carried by the American lobster gets into the breeding ground it could be very serious indeed
Chris Parry

American lobsters have got a foothold in the West Sussex fishing grounds - bringing with them a disease that can kill local stocks.

The disease - Gaffkemia or red-tail - is a virulent infectious disease of lobsters caused by a bacterium.

"I think that if the bacteria carried by the American lobster gets into the breeding ground it could be very serious indeed," said Chris Parry, the chairman of the Marine Management Organisation .

A lobster
Sussex lobsters are at risk from the American arrivals

The MMO believes that well-meaning animal-lovers are to blame for the surprise arrivals.

"It's probably people who think they are doing good. They buy up about half a dozen of these lobsters, ostensibly to eat them but in fact release them into the wild," said Mr Parry.

Five of the 'imported' lobsters have been caught so far by different fishermen along the Selsey to Littlehampton stretch of the Sussex coast.

Tony Delahunty, from Selsey, was shocked when he saw what was in the pot.

"We were quite surprised because they are totally different looking lobsters and they are quite aggressive," he said.

I have been fishing for 35 years and it's the first time I've ever heard of one
Danny Clark

Another was caught a few weeks ago off Bognor Regis.

"I have been fishing for 35 years and its the first time I've ever heard of one," said Littlehampton fisherman Danny Clark.

The MMO regulates the UK's fishing industry. Chris Parry believes that the American lobster colony is currently quite small.

"The public can help here really because they can desist from releasing these lobsters into the wild but also because they can report, usefully to our marine managers on the coast when they see people doing it," he said.

Under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, anyone caught moving American lobsters into the sea faces a fine of up to £5000.

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