Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 23 October 2014

Bloody red shrimp found in Northern Ireland waters

The invasive bloody red shrimp

A new invasive species has been found in Northern Ireland for the first time.

The bloody red shrimp was found in Upper Lough Erne by researchers carrying out a fish survey.

A number of individuals were found in the stomach contents of perch by Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute staff taking part in a study for the Northern Ireland Environment Agency. The work was part of the AFBI-led DOLMANT project focusing on lake management.

The creature, which originates in the Black and Caspian Seas, first reached Ireland in 2008 and has been observed forming red swarms at marinas in the Shannon region.

The bloody red shrimp is known as a voracious predator that can potentially have a major impact on plankton composition, altering the dynamic of the ecosystem it has invaded.

Kevin Gallagher, fish biologist at AFBI, said: "The bloody red shrimp is distinctive from the native shrimp species due to its orangey-red transparent colouration, and unlike similar native species it can be observed swarming in shaded areas during the day.

"Red swarms of the shrimp have been seen in marinas throughout the Shannon River."

Dr Robert Rosell, senior fish biologist at AFBI, added: "This species is similar to the established non-native zebra mussel that originated in the Ponto-Caspian region of Eastern Europe and has gradually spread westward.

"Once introduced into the river system here, it has expanded its range probably as a result of leisure craft moving between river catchments via the Shannon-Erne canal."

DOLMANT project leader Dr Yvonne McElarney said the main concern was the potential adverse impact on the ecology of a lake.

"This species is known as a voracious predator that has the potential to have a serious impact on plankton composition," she said.

"Findings such as this underpin the importance that the DOLMANT project has on understanding the lake ecosystem and the impact of change in lakes."

Stephen Foster from the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, said: "Invasive alien species are widely recognised as one of the greatest threats to our native biodiversity.

"Once an invasive species has established within a habitat its spread can be rapid, out-competing native species."

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