Electro Fishing Services helps tackle crayfish problem

24 Feb 2011

Down-based Electro Fishing Services is being assisted by Invest Northern Ireland to solve the developing threat of American Signal Crayfish to native fish including salmon and trout in rivers particularly in the UK and US.

The Invest NI Innovation Voucher is used by the company, based in Donaghadee Co Down, to perfect technology to combat the threat in rivers, lakes and ponds. The innovative technology is based on the company’s extensive experience of electric fishing.

Experts from Queen’s University Belfast are collecting scientific data on the results of the process which has already been tested with some success in England and Scotland.

“The work of Electro Fishing Services is a good example of how established companies can use an Innovation Voucher to develop a new product or process that extends its business and offers a new growth opportunity especially in markets outside Northern Ireland,” said Olive Hill, Invest NI director of technology and process development.

“Innovation Vouchers encourage and assist smaller companies to team up with a knowledge provider, such as a university or further education college. Electro Fishing Services is accessing expertise at Queen’s University to develop the process,” Hill added.

Managing director of Electro Fishing Services Robin McKimm said the American Signal Crayfish poses a “massive threat” to native species in rivers, lakes and ponds.

“Escapees and accidental release has allowed these Signal Crayfish to populate hundreds of miles of streams and rivers in England, Scotland and Wales. They carry a virus which does not harm them, but quickly kills the indigenous and relatively docile White Claw Crayfish.”

McKimm said that as a consequence of the “female carrying more than 250 eggs, the invasive Signal Crayfish has now reached plague proportions and biologists have been desperately seeking a way of halting its relentless spread.”

“It is a killing machine that will destroy life in Britain’s waterways. I began developing the process four years ago in response to a request from a River Trust contact in the North of England who knew about our company’s expertise in electric fishing equipment.”

“We zone the river or stream; remove any other fish by electro fishing, then use extra high power pulses to kill the crayfish. This process is repeated in three-minute bursts every 30 minutes for at least four days when it is hoped that we will have passed the minimum viability density. The river can then returned to its normal state and other fish restored,” explained McKimm.

McKimm plans to license the technology in Britain, Europe and the US.