Fears are growing over alien species living in British waters after invasive quagga mussels were discovered earlier this month.
Scientists are warning that non-native aquatic species now found in British waters are threatening native shrimp and fish. The most worrying is the Quagga mussel, originating in the Ponto-Caspian sea, which the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust (WWT) described as “the number one most dangerous alien species”, warning that their arrival in the UK would be devastating to British wetlands. The Environment Agency also estimates that invasive species cost the UK economy more than £1.8 billion every year.
Thumbnail-sized Quagga mussels, first discovered in the UK on the 1st October, can affect water quality, block pipes and cause flooding, foul boat hulls and disrupt ecosystems. The females can produce up to one million eggs a year.
Boat owners are now being urged to ‘Check, Clean and Dry’ the hulls of vessels to stop the spreading of the mussels, believed to be due to canal construction, the shipping industry, the trade of ornamental plants and even international water sports.
Scientists have warned that at least 14 other alien species have become established in the Netherlands and that there is a critical risk of them arriving in British waters. Dr David Aldridge, of the University of Cambridge, said: “I think we’re at tipping point. Very soon we’ll look in any bit of water in the UK and find that actually 90% of the biomass is non-native organisms”.