Sanctuary found for Fountains Abbey’s crayfish

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A number of native white-clawed crayfish have been moved from the River Skell at Fountains Abbey to a new safe location to help preserve the species from the threat of the invasive American signal crayfish.

The joint project between the Environment Agency and the National Trust saw the native crayfish moved upstream to their new home above a reservoir dam, which is high enough to prevent signal crayfish reaching the site from downstream.

All crayfish were examined by Environment Agency experts to ensure they were native white claws and not one of their very similar looking American cousins.

Tim Selway, Environment Agency biodiversity officer, said: “Yorkshire is now on the frontline between native white-clawed crayfish and American signal crayfish.

“The native crayfish population has now been given a chance to survive in this new location.

“Native crayfish have the same conservation status as blue whales and Siberian tigers. It is sad to think that this crayfish population, living here since before the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey was built, is now likely to be lost due to people having illegally released signal crayfish upstream.”

Native crayfish live in the river at Fountains Abbey but their continued existence is threatened by a population of invasive American signal crayfish, discovered upstream of the Abbey in 2015.

The American crayfish could not have established themselves upstream of the Abbey’s native population without having been accidentally or deliberately released there by people.

For more information visit www.ywt.org.uk/node/20425