Emergency measures recommended following Crayfish plague outbreak on Suir

Interagency group from ten separate agencies met in Clonmel

Anne O'Grady

Reporter:

Anne O'Grady

Emergency measures recommended

Interagency personnel from ten separate agencies met this week in Clonmel along with other experts to discuss the most appropriate response to the outbreak of Crayfish Plague on the River Suir.

This is the single greatest threat to Ireland’s native white clawed Crayfish populations, which are the most significant in Europe.

The agencies concerned were the National Parks and Wildlife Service, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Environmental Protection Agency, Tipperary County Council, Tipperary Sports Partnership, Waterford City and County Council, Marine Institute, Local Authority Water and Communities Office, Waterways Ireland and National Biodiversity Data Centre.

It was previously reported in this newspaper that on May 5th Inland Fisheries Ireland received a report that crayfish were dying in the River Suir. Subsequent DNA testing confirmed that the cause is a mould known as the Crayfish Plague. This mould is an invasive pathogen which is associated with non native crayfish species to Ireland and is lethal to our native crayfish, killing 100% on contact. Experts say that it will kill native crayfish within 10 days of contact and spores of the mould can last up to 3 weeks in water and on damp materials.

A key concern now for the Interagency Group is containment of the disease to the River Suir and to prevent its spread to other catchments that have large populations of crayfish such as the Rivers Nore and Blackwater. There are reports of crayfish die offs in a number of river catchments throughout the country and containment measures are needed immediately to restrict the spread of the disease.

In addition information was sent by text, email and social media by NPWS, Local Authority Water and Communities Office, Tipperary County Council Environment Section, Tipperary Sports Partnership, Inland Fisheries Ireland, Angling clubs, kayaking and canoe clubs, rowing clubs, river rescue and triathalon club, to their local and national contacts.

The Interagency Groups recommends the following

In response to a recent outbreak of Crayfish Plague in the River Suir, emergency disease containment measures are needed to help prevent its spread to other waterbodies.

Crayfish Plague is a disease that kills our native White-clawed Crayfish. All crayfish that become infected will die. Crayfish Plague is easily transmitted in water or via contaminated equipment (for example on canoes, waders or nets).

Ireland holds the largest population of the White-clawed Crayfish in Europe.

HELP PROTECT OUR NATIVE CRAYFISH FROM THIS DISEASE

All water users are asked to operate a temporary ban on moving water sports and angling equipment out of the River Suir catchment - commencing immediately.

Water sports and angling equipment currently in use in the Suir catchment may continue to be used there; but boats or angling equipment should not be transferred out of the catchment.

Limit your activity to the river section where you normally operate, avoid moving around the catchment and follow biosecurity protocols with your equipment - Check, Clean, Dry.

Dr Fran Igoe of the Local Authority Waters and Communities Office says “this recommendation is essentially asking people to avoid moving between catchments where possible and to follow the recommended disinfection protocols. It is in all our interest to carry out biosecurity measures when entering or leaving a water course, to not only restrict the transfer of this lethal disease to Crayfish but to also prevent the spread of other non-native invasive species.

“The draft River Basin Management Plan which is now open for consultation addresses the threat by invasive species and we encourage people to examine this plan and make submissions.

“A key element of the plan is governance around invasive species and resourcing how we can firstly put in preventative measures and secondly respond to threats effectively. This plan can be accessed at www.watersandcommunities.ie”