Mitten Crabs Invading UK Waterways

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A Chinese mitten crab caught in a fyke net by APEM field scientists.

The Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) is an invasive non-native species first recorded in the UK in the 1930’s and is well established in several river systems throughout the UK, primarily on the east coast. As with many other non-native species, Chinese mitten crabs have the potential to impact negatively upon native plants and animals to the extent that their threat is considered severe enough to warrant their inclusion on the IUCN 100 of the world’s worst alien species list. Given its ability both to disperse extensively in coastal waters during its marine phase, and migrate large distances up river systems and travel over land, further expansion of its range in the UK is likely.

APEM, together with the Natural History Museum London, have recently undertaken a study on behalf of Natural England to assess the current status and distribution of Chinese mitten crab (Eriocheir sinensis) in the Nene Washes and Ouse Washes and to investigate the threat they pose to the internationally protected spined loach populations living there. This project also involved designing a detailed monitoring programme which would enable the early detection of Chinese mitten crabs as they penetrate further up the associated water courses. It is anticipated that the study will inform national efforts to further understand, monitor and control this invasive species.

For more information regarding Chinese mitten crabs please contact Dr Peter Walker in our Oxford Office on 01865 854853 or email him at p.walker@apemltd.co.uk . Additional information is also available on the Natural History Museum website http://www.nhm.ac.uk/research-curation/research/mitten-crab/index.html.