Writtle College have been working with Essex Biodiversity Project, Essex Wildlife Trust, EECOS, the Environment Agency and Essex and Suffolk Water to create the first Essex County ‘Ark’ site for the threatened White-clawed Crayfish.
Volunteer MSc Conservation students and Conservation lecturers from Writtle College were involved in the ark project before the actual translocation of the crayfish took place in October 2011. Around 220 crayfish were recovered from the River Chelmer – the official donor site – during two separate searches and were ready for release in their new ark home the same day. Other volunteers supporting the translocations were dedicated crayfish surveyors from the various bodies involved in the project.
Alan Roscoe, Lecturer in Conservation and the lead volunteer for the ark project in Writtle College, said “We are really keen for our students to be involved in collaborative projects of this type and we shall be keeping a close eye on the success of the site.”
The site was selected from over 80 standing water sites considered by the Essex Biodiversity Project and the Essex Wildlife Trust’s own ecological consultancy EECOS, for the ark project. Strict criteria determined the suitability of the first selected site, including good water quality, suitable habitat, absence of fishing and being isolated from the non-native American Signal Crayfish. A number of water chemistry tests and surveys for invertebrates, Great Crested Newts and fish were carried out before the site was declared suitable.
A new habitat and environment was established at the ark site in preparation for the crayfish arrival. Bricks and granite were donated by Essex and Suffolk Water and by Essex Wildlife Trust, and later installed by the group of volunteers from Writtle College and from Essex Wildlife Trust.
It is intended that later on this year another suitable ark site will be identified and that together it is intended that they will represent a significant step towards securing the future of White-clawed Crayfish in Essex. It is hoped that the populations breading at the ark sites can eventually be used to re-stock rivers in their native range.
Info on Crayfish
White-clawed Crayfish are protected under UK and European law, which means a licence, is required to handle and catch crayfish. Crayfish Plague can be carried to different river catchments by canoes, wellies and damp fishing equipment. See www.crayfish.org.uk for further information.