Tuesday 16 January 2018

'Killer shrimp' threaten our marine life

Lynne Kelleher

Fishermen are being warned about the spread of a species of vicious shrimp dubbed 'natural prawn killers'.

Skippers of yachts and angling boats are being urged to sterilise their vessels before floating them on inland waterways to stop the influx of a vicious shrimp.

Officially known as Dikerogammerus villosus, the species often kills its prey for sport and leaves it uneaten, and alters the ecology of the habitats it invades.

The predator is rapidly spreading through Europe and has just been recorded in England and Wales.

It is feared Ireland could be the next country to be infiltrated by the crustacean, which originated in eastern Europe.

Leading marine biologist Kevin Flannery warned that the shrimp could have a detrimental effect on our rivers and lakes.

He said: "It could have dire consequences for our native species in rivers and lakes.

"The shrimp will eat the primary source of food for the trout and salmon and other indigenous species which have been here for billions of years.

"Our freshwater climate is already so vulnerable to so many factors, like climate change, farming practices and the run-off from households and septic tanks.

"These invasive species are very aggressive and take over from the native species -- and change the whole environment and ecosystem."

The killer shrimp is a much more deadly predator than native shrimp due to its larger size. It will attack insect larvae, baby fish and native shrimp, upsetting the food chain and threatening stocks of trout and salmon or coarse fish such as roach and rudd.

Originally from a region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, the shrimp has spread across most of western Europe in the past 10 years, largely through the movement of boats, as the larvae attach to the hull.

Mr Flannery, who is director of Dingle Oceanworld, urged anglers and pleasure-boat owners to disinfect their vessels before putting them in Irish waterways.

He said: "I would urge people to please put their vessels through some sort of sterilisation process if they are bringing them from Europe or the UK back to Ireland."

Sunday Independent

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