Britain’s canoeists and anglers could be unwittingly transporting killer foreign species that ‘hitchhike’ on their equipment and devastate our waterways, a new survey reveals.
According to the University of Leeds and the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, the lack of regular equipment-cleaning among anglers and canoeists could be allowing invaders like killer shrimp (see below), zebra mussels and American signal crayfish to stow away in the equipment and move between sites, causing damage to habitats and wiping out native species.
In a survey of more than 1,500 water-sports enthusiasts across the UK, 64% of anglers and 79% of canoeists said they used their equipment in more than one waterway in a fortnight, with a significant proportion (12% of anglers and 50% of canoeists) admitting they did not clean or dry their kit before moving to new waters.
Dr Alison Dunn, who led the Leeds research, said: “This is really alarming because some of the most dangerous invasive species can easily survive in damp equipment. The killer shrimp, for instance, can live in a fold of a wetsuit or an angling net for about 15 days. Once it gets into the new water system, it is voracious. It will take bites out of things and leave them uneaten, killing when it doesn’t need to eat. The native shrimp is replaced, food stocks vital to other species are depleted and the ecosystems can be devastated.”
In 2011, the Government, in partnership with a large number of environmental organisations, launched a “Check, Clean, Dry” campaign to address the issue by encouraging water users to clean their gear before moving to new sites. While there has been support for the campaign, the study shows there is still some way to go to further reduce the risk.
The “Check, Clean, Dry” campaign asks water-sports participants to:
· Check all gear and clothing for live organisms, particularly in areas that are hard to inspect.
· Clean and wash all clothing, footwear and equipment properly.
· Dry all equipment thoroughly as many species can live for many days in moist conditions.