Species Action Plan
Canals HAP Amphibian SAP

White-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes)

Associated Species Action Plans


Floating water-plantain

Great crested newt

Water vole

Associated Habitat action plans


Eutrophic urban pools

Rivers and Streams

1Current Status

The White-clawed Crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes) is the only species of crayfish native to the UK and is widely distributed throughout England and Wales. It is thought that the UK supports up to 24% of the world's population of the white-clawed crayfish. Crayfish can be found in a wide range of aquatic habitats, such as rivers, streams, canals, open water and quarry pools. They prefer alkaline water with limited sediment, free of pollution and plenty of shelter in the form of rock, aquatic plants and tree roots.

Crayfish have been recorded at only ten sites in Birmingham and the Black Country.

2Current factors affecting species

Nationally the white-clawed crayfish has suffered a serious population decline due to competition from introduced crayfish species, crayfish plague and the destruction and fragmentation of suitable habitat.

Native crayfish suffer direct competition and displacement by introduced crayfish species, in particular American signal crayfish (Pasifastacus leninsculus). There is one confirmed population of signal crayfish in Birmingham and the Black Country at Penns Hall.

There are two other non-native species now breeding wild in the UK although none are known to exist in the plan area.

Signal crayfish are known to transmit Crayfish plague, a disease caused by the fungus Aphanomyces astaci to native populations but do not themselves suffer from it. Crayfish plague has been known to destroy native populations of crayfish within a matter of days. Spores from the fungus can also be transported by a variety of other means, including water, mud, fish and damp equipment. There have been no confirmed cases of this disease in Birmingham or the Black Country.

Habitat modification and management of watercourses and water bodies has lead to the reduction of habitat features required by crayfish. Crayfish also suffer from water pollution particularly urban and agricultural run-off, domestic sewage and increased levels of sediment.

3Current Action

3.1 Legal status

The white-clawed crayfish is listed in Appendix III of the Bern Convention and Annexes II and IV of the EC Habitats Directive. It is classed as globally threatened by IUCN/WCMC. It is protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) in respect of taking from the wild and sale.

Schedule 9 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) makes it an offence to release or allow to escape into the wild all three non-native species of crayfish in the UK.

The use of native crayfish as bait is illegal under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). This practice could be further prevented by being made an offence under the fishery bylaws.

Four sites in the UK have been proposed as candidate SAC's for white-clawed crayfish, under the EC Habitats Directive, none in this plan area.

3.2 Management, research and guidance

The Joint Nature Conservancy Council published an action plan in 1994 for the conservation of this species in the UK. Research and survey into crayfish plague, distribution and management are currently underway.

The relationship between crayfish farming and the decline of native crayfish was investigated and confirmed though a contract with Nottingham University and the Nature Conservancy Council. A research and development programme is ongoing by English Nature and the Environment Agency to investigate eradication methods of non-native crayfish and the Environment Agency has produced an identification leaflet.

The River Trent catchment (including all of northern, eastern and southern Birmingham and the Black Country) has been designated by MAFF as a 'no-go' area for the introduction of non-native crayfish to crayfish farms to reduce the risk of accidental releases of alien species into the wild. The River Severn catchment, which includes the western and south-western parts of the area is currently not designated. Crayfish farms in this catchment should be strongly discouraged, for example by the use of planning regulations.

Research is needed on the ecology, distribution, population trends and conservation of the native crayfish, and the impact of introduced crayfish on both the native crayfish and freshwater ecosystems.

4Action Plan objectives and targets

  1. Establish current distribution of native crayfish in Birmingham and the Black Country.
  1. Establish distribution of alien crayfish and collect records of alien crayfish
  1. Maintain the present distribution of the species by ensuring that crayfish plague does not spread into the area, limiting the spread of non-native species, and by maintaining appropriate habitat conditions.
  1. Increase number of crayfish populations at suitable sites.

5Proposed Actions

ACTION Potential
YEARS Meets Objective No.
Lead Partner 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2011
5.1 Policy and legislation
Lobby central government to make the case for amendments to legislation and policy:
  • Outlaw the use of crayfish as bait by inclusion into fishery bylaws;
  • Continue to enforce policy not to issue W&CA licences for the release of non-native crayfish in the wild;
  • Promote and continue the River Trent as 'no go' area for the keeping of non-native crayfish under the keeping of wild fish (England and Wales) Act 1996 and designate the Severn catchment also as a 'no go' area.
Ensure the relevant LEAP's include specific measures for white-clawed crayfish conservation and that EA activities take account of the needs of crayfish EA WT           3
Designate sites with importance for the conservation of white-clawed crayfish as SINC's. LA, EN WT   1,3
5.2 Site/species management and protection
Maintain and enhance habitat and water quality where native crayfish are known to be present by suitable habitat management. EA, BW, LA EN 3
Ensure flood defence, river and pool maintenance work is compatible with native crayfish habitat needs. EA LAs 3
If appropriate initiate re-introduction programmes at suitable sites EN WT, EA           4
Ensure the introduction of fish does not prejudice existing crayfish populations. EA   3
Set up a 'Key Sites' programme for white-clawed crayfish. Set up training days for conservation staff, angling clubs, and landowners of key sites. WT EA, ER, LOs           3
Take action to prevent the spread of non-native crayfish populations ALL   3
Undertake eradication programme of known populations of non-native crayfish. Eradicate signal crayfish from Penns Hall. EA MAFF, LOs           3
Strongly oppose applications for crayfish farms in the Severn catchment. MAFF EA, EN 3
5.3 Advisory
Provide advice and information for those involved with conservation of this species and the management of non-native crayfish populations. ALL   3
5.4 Future research and monitoring
Continue to monitor present native populations EA WT, ER       1
Continue research into crayfish plague EA           3
Continue research project into eradication of non-native crayfish species, including searching for non-native crayfish populations, recording and informing landowners EA WT, ER, MAFF, LOs 2
5.5 Communications and publicity
Increase awareness of the presence of native crayfish at known sites and threats to its existence. WT EA, LAs, EN         3
Publicise the need for conservation and how the public can help by contributing records to the Local Records Centre on distribution. EA WT, ER       1,2
Ensure all river and conservation staff, and anglers are aware of the dangers of spreading crayfish plagues on equipment and of the legislative controls on release of non-native species. EA ACs 3
5.6 Links to other action plans
Rivers and stream, canals, eutrophic urban pools                    


This Biodiversity Action Plan will be implemented over 10 years with a first review after 5 years. A group will be set up to co-ordinate implementation and to report to the Biodiversity Steering Group. This group will meet at a minimum on a yearly basis.

Review will be carried out in conjunction with related Habitat and Species Action Plans as appropriate.

Review will consist of measuring achievement of targets. The group will, with the support of the Steering Group, develop and implement appropriate monitoring methods which will inform the review process.

The Action Plan will be revised and updated in the light of review results and any relevant changes in circumstances and/or additional information which becomes available during the review period.

In line with national guidance, the Steering Group will report to the UK Steering Group.

Canals HAP Amphibian SAP

Biodiversity Action Plan for Birmingham and the Black Country 2000

Printing of this publication for educational purposes is permitted, provided that copies are not made or distributed for commercial gain, and the title of the publication and its date appear. To copy otherwise, or to republish, requires specific permission from the Steering Group.