The European Union (Invasive Alien Species) (Freshwater Crayfish) Regulations 2018 (SI 354/18) came into force on 18 September 2018. The new measures are designed to combat the threat of disease spread from several species of non-native crayfish.
Throughout Europe, the white-clawed crayfish has been decimated by the impact of a disease called Crayfish plague. This disease was spread to Europe with the introduction of North American species of crayfish, which are resistant to crayfish plague but can act as carriers of the disease.
The important new regulations will give Irish authorities the powers to prevent the arrival and spread of the five non-native species of crayfish included on the EU list of invasive alien species.
The white-clawed crayfish is considered a globally threatened species and Ireland holds one of the largest surviving populations. It is the only freshwater crayfish species found in Ireland and is protected under both Irish law and the EU Habitats Directive.
There is no evidence to date that American, or other non-native freshwater crayfish, have been introduced to Ireland and, until 2015, Ireland was considered free of the Crayfish plague. The disease, however, has now reached five rivers in Ireland, possibly by spores carried on fishing equipment.
The threat from introduced crayfish remains very high. Furthermore, if alien crayfish were to become established they would also have a severe impact on habitats (e.g. destabilising canal and river banks by burrowing) and other freshwater species such as salmon and trout, and the fisheries they support.