Thumbs down for hitchhiking killer shrimps
This hitchhiking killer shrimp has been blacklisted as an invasive alien species in an EU-backed bid to prevent it infesting Northern Ireland's waterways.
Wildlife experts fear that our lakes and rivers could be invaded by an army of these aggressive crustaceans after they were first identified in UK waters four years ago.
The killer shrimp has a voracious appetite, devouring native invertebrates and even small fish, and it's thought its arrival in Ireland could push many native insects close to extinction.
Like the zebra mussel, which has already reached Loughs Erne and Neagh, it can be spread through the movement of uncleaned boats.
Killer shrimp can also hitchhike in the kit of fishermen and canoeists to spread to other areas, taking advantage of their ability to survive out of the water for up to two weeks.
The new EU legislation, which is expected to become law within a few months, will restrict the possession, transportation, selling and growing of a number of species deemed to be of 'Union Concern'. Member states will be expected to have plans in place for managing species which have already secured a foothold, such as the grey squirrel and Japanese knotweed.
Checks at EU borders will be tightened to stop the spread of invasive species.
MPs from the Commons Environment Audit Committee have welcomed the changes, with chair Joan Walley saying: "The UK has to be ready to take on board the step changes that there will be as a result of the European decision.
"People are travelling more, and international trade means there are all kinds of opportunities which there previously weren't for non-native species to come into the UK."
Experts believe more than 12,000 alien species are now present in Europe and 2,000 in the UK.
It has been estimated that killer shrimp, along with the harlequin ladybird and Japanese knotweed, cost Europe €12bn a year, and the UK £1.7bn.
Invasive Species Ireland has warned that killer shrimp could seriously affect Ireland's waterways, saying it could spread very quickly if it arrives in a major waterway like the Erne, so preventing its arrival is a priority.
- The killer shrimp originates in the Ponto-Caspian region of eastern Europe but has marched across much of Europe through a network of interconnected waterways.
- It was recorded on September 3, 2010 at Grafham Water reservoir in Cambridgeshire.
- It has caused significant impacts to biodiversity where it has invaded and is considered a high-risk species.