Five Year Project Drives Success for Native White Crayfish Conservation

A five-year project has made considerable progress in the conservation of our native white-clawed crayfish. The project was delivered by Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust (HIWWT) through the Southern Chalkstreams Project, a partnership project funded by the Vitacress Conservation Trust.

Native white-clawed crayfish are under increasing threat from the introduced North American signal crayfish, and the disease ‘crayfish plague’ it carries.

The four key objectives of the project were to:

  • Raise awareness of the threats to white-clawed crayfish
  • Increase our knowledge of the ecology and distribution of crayfish species in Hampshire
  • Facilitate and, where appropriate, lead on the delivery of targeted habitats works for white-clawed crayfish
  • Develop and deliver strategic conservation plans for white-clawed crayfish and partners

Researchers, led by Dr Ben Rushbrook MCIEEM, a Senior Ecologist at HIWWT, undertook a number of steps including:

  • Annual monitoring, conducted by HIWWT to protect and enhance existing populations of white-clawed crayfish, the most productive associated with the Candover Stream
  • Setting up ‘Ark’ sites where the species can be protected from signal crayfish. An ark site for white-clawed crayfish is an isolated, self-contained site with running water, still water, or both, which can support a healthy, self-sustaining population of white-clawed crayfish with little need for ongoing management. Hampshire’s first ‘Ark’ site was set up in autumn 2016 at Sparsholt College.
  • A captive-rearing and breeding programme, led by Bristol Zoological Society, so more crayfish can be released to bolster populations / colonise ark site
  • Providing consultation and advice to partners and external organisations

Image credit: Peter Brett Associates