Crayfish in Crisis Appeal
Dorset’s white-clawed crayfish need your help!
Please donate today to help save our native white-clawed crayfish from dying out in Dorset.
Dorset has seen many conservation successes in recent years, such as the return of the otter to all of our rivers, so we don’t want our appeals to give the impression that all our nature is suffering. Time-after-time, however, the thoughtless introduction of non-native plants and animals has had disastrous consequences for our local wildlife.
The white-clawed crayfish is the UK’s only native crayfish, which unfortunately has suffered a catastrophic decline in recent years. This is primarily due to the invasion of the larger American signal crayfish, that carries a fungal disease, crayfish plague, which they are immune to, but which is lethal to our native white-clawed species.
Dorset has populations of white-claws surviving on just three rivers. One of these, the River Allen, had until recently remained free from crayfish plague. In July of this year, however, following an investigation by Dorset Wildlife Trust and the Environment Agency, crayfish plague was confirmed on the River Allen.
Unless immediate action is taken to help our white-clawed crayfish, this priority species could be lost altogether from not only the River Allen but from all of Dorset’s rivers.
Please help us to raise £33,000 to protect surviving native crayfish on the River Allen, whilst also bolstering our crayfish river restoration work here and on other Dorset rivers that will benefit white-clawed crayfish and other river wildlife for years to come.
Your involvement can really make a difference to save this native of our rivers which is so vulnerable and threatened. Anything you can give us will help towards the survival of white-clawed crayfish in Dorset. 100% of your donation will be used for crayfish conservation and crayfish river restoration work. You can donate securely online by clicking on the donate button above, or by texting CLAW14 (£ donation amount) to 70070, using your mobile phone.
Thank you for your support today.
P.S. Your support could help save our native crayfish in Dorset.
Click on the blue tabs above to read more and find out how you can help our Crayfish in Crisis Appeal
White-clawed crayfish © Amanda Broom
Our native white-clawed crayfish
- is the UK’s largest native freshwater invertebrate growing up to 12cm long.
- lives under rocks,submerged logs, tree roots and holes in undercut banks.
- is most active at night and is not a fussy eater.
- plays an important role in cleaning up rivers.
- has a lifespan of up to 15 years.
- is a UK Biodiversity Action Plan priority species for conservation.
- is threatened with being lost from Dorset.
Endangered in Dorset
In the south west of England there has been a 70% decline in white-clawed crayfish since the 1970s, with up to 30% of this decline coming in the last decade. It has become one of our rarest wildlife species and in Dorset, populations of white-clawed crayfish survive on just three of our rivers.
Though a number of threats, including habitat degradation, pollution and changes to water quality, have all contributed to the white-claws decline, the key reason for its rapid disappearance is due to the introduction of non-native crayfish species, especially the American signal crayfish.
This has spread throughout much of Britain and has caused extinctions of native crayfish from many rivers. Signal crayfish are much bigger (up to 16cm), breed faster, disperse quicker and generally displace white-claws.
The most severe impact, however, has come from a fungal disease, which signal crayfish carry but are immune to. Crayfish plague is the primary threat to the white-clawed crayfish. They are highly susceptible to it and once infected an entire population can be wiped out in a few months.
The disease can spread between and along rivers in a number of ways, such as fish stocking, angling kit, footwear, clothing, engineering works, birds and mammals. The fungal spores can live for up to two weeks in damp conditions.
Non-native Signal crayfish © DWT
Dorset Wildlife Trust Conservation work
Our priority is to protect white-clawed crayfish at the Dorset sites where they still occur. On the River Allen, which is a tributary of the River Stour joining at Wimborne Minster, Dorset Wildlife Trust is working with others to monitor the situation and determine the extent of the outbreak.
- We will look to prevent further spread of non-native crayfish and the plague by remaining vigilant and urging river users to observe strict biosecurity procedures that help prevent the plague and non-native species from spreading:
- We will step-up our surveys and ‘health checks’ of surviving populations, which are vital to show trends and to identify any threats. One of the most important tasks will be to check that a white-claw population is breeding successfully and we need to have a good knowledge of the distribution of all crayfish species and plague outbreaks.
- Survey results can be used to prioritise habitat management and actions to help protect our native crayfish populations. We will also work in partnership to identify possible safe, isolated sites away from the threat of any non-native crayfish, where at-risk populations of white-claws can be moved to. These safe havens are known as Ark sites.
- Our programme of habitat restoration, wildlife enhancements and river management improvements will strengthen surviving populations of white-claws and raise the quality of the River Allen and other Dorset rivers. This conservation work will benefit not only crayfish but also other river wildlife, including priority ones such as the water vole and brown trout.
- Our river conservation work will be done in partnership with the Environment Agency, local river owners, anglers and the South West Crayfish Project.
White-clawed crayfish workshop © Amanda Broom
How you can help
Unless immediate action is taken to help our white-clawed crayfish, this priority species could be lost altogether from not only the River Allen but from all of Dorset's rivers.
We urgently need to raise £33,000 to enable us to carry out a new three-year wildlife conservation programme.
Please make a donation today. 100% of the funds raised will be used on this vital conservation work.
Your donation can make a real difference:
£10 - Buys a survey net
£25 - Equips a volunteer to work in the river
£50 - Delivers a talk to an angling group to promote the check, clean dry protocol
£150 - Enables a one day crayfish survey to monitor their health and population
£200 - Pays for a crayfish training day for volunteers, anglers and riparian owners
£300 - Install 2 pairs of submerged logs providing ideal habitats
£500 - Helps us produce updated publicity material about crayfish plague to distribute
£1000 - Enough to enhance 200m of the river habitat installing faggots or woody debris along the bank to provide hiding places for crayfish
If you'd prefer to donate using your mobile phone, just text: CLAW14 (£ donation amount) to 70070.
White-clawed crayfish © Ben Rushbrook