The Angling Trust says that with fishing abroad becoming increasingly popular amongst UK anglers, the risk of inadvertently transporting invasive non-native species into Britain has increased.
And while studies show almost half of anglers fishing in the UK regularly carry out ‘Check, Clean, Dry’ procedures to help reduce the spread of invasive species, there’s no obligation in some other European countries to clean or dry equipment before leaving the fishery.
Research carried out by the Angling Trust at 34 fisheries in northern France showed that 20 lakes (59%) contained at least one invasive aquatic plant or invertebrate – including the Caspian slender mysid (Limnomysis benedeni), a “high alert” shrimp species not currently present in the UK. In addition, three different crayfish species and the highly aggressive top mouth gudgeon and black bullhead were also discovered.
Emily Smith, Angling Trust’s Invasive Species Manager, said: “Many of the fisheries surveyed required anglers to arrive with dry nets, or in some cases the fishery dipped the anglers’ equipment in disinfectant before they could start fishing. However, as there was no obligation to clean or dry the equipment upon leaving the lake, it raises concern as many aquatic invasive species have been shown to survive for over a fortnight on damp angling equipment.
“With frequent ferry and Eurotunnel links between Europe and the UK, if fishing equipment and clothing are not thoroughly cleaned and dried following a trip abroad, invasive species could be inadvertently transported back into the UK and introduced into a British water body on the next fishing outing.
“We’re asking anglers fishing abroad to follow the same procedures they should be carrying out in the UK – check, clean and dry equipment every time you fish.”
While this researched focused on fisheries in France, many other popular fishing destinations In Europe have invasive species of major biosecurity concern to the UK. In particular, there are at least 10 aquatic invasive species in the Netherlands, as well as the salmon louse (Gyrodactylus salaris) in Norway which is having a devastating impact on their salmon fisheries.
The appeal comes as Invasive Species Week seeks to raise awareness of the devastating impact non-native species, such as the Quagga Mussel and Killer Shrimp, can have on British plants, animals and ecosystems. As well as preying on, out-competing and displacing native wildlife, aquatic non-native species can spread disease and block waterways. Their presence can sometimes be so damaging it can lead to significant changes to the entire ecology of a water body.
Recreational facilities, including angling, can suffer as a result of invasive species. Fish populations may reduce or change and invasive plants may restrict navigation through waterways, clog up propellers and add significantly to the management costs of our waterways.
Practising good biosecurity measures such as Check, Clean, Dry can help to stop the spread of invasive plants and animals from one water body to another. Animals, eggs, larvae and plant fragments are easily transported in or on equipment, shoes, clothing and other damp places and can survive for a long time. For example, a killer shrimp can survive in the moist fold of a wader for up to 15 days.
While the financial costs of invasive species can run into millions of pounds, the cost to the UK’s wildlife can be irreplaceable.
Mark Owen, Head of Freshwater for the Angling Trust, said: “Emily’s research has highlighted the potential threat to fish and fishing on our doorstep. It is in every anglers’ interest to do all they can to prevent the spread of invasive species and follow the Check, Clean, Dry advice – even when fishing abroad.”