The White-clawed Crayfish is a UK and Northern Ireland Biodiversity Action Plan Species. The breeding and reintroduction programme will feed directly into the Lough Neagh Wetlands Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP), currently being undertaken, and become a key part in the future Cookstown District LBAP.
For the last twenty years the Ballinderry River Enhancement Association (BREA) has been working tirelessly to restore fisheries and habitat in the Ballinderry River. After successfully establishing conservation breeding programmes and habitat improvement schemes for native Dollaghan trout, Atlantic salmon and the endangered Freshwater Pearl Mussel, BREA identified the White-clawed Crayfish as a species that required immediate attention to safeguard its future.
Building a Partnership
With expertise in breeding freshwater species and habitat restoration, BREA had the ‘know how’ but limited resources to establish a breeding programme. However, it was in the sand and gravel industry of the river catchment that BREA found a partner, the Acheson & Glover Group, who could dedicate space, resources, time and commitment to make possible Irelands first White-clawed Crayfish breeding and re-introduction project
Breeding Ballinderry Crayfish
A sanctuary in a working sand pit
The Ballinderry River system drains an area where the richest sand and gravel deposits in Ireland are to be found. A long history of sand and gravel extraction and washings in the catchment has created, in certain reaches of the Ballinderry River, the substrate and water chemistry conditions suitable for White-clawed Crayfish.
Near the source of the Ballinderry River, on the fringe of the Sperrin Mountains, a number of small manmade and natural lakes form a series of settling ponds at Acheson & Glover’s Pomeroy Gravel Pit. Gravel washing in the pit has created alkaline water chemistry in the ponds; conditions ideal for White-clawed Crayfish. The Acheson & Glover Group have created a purpose built habitat bay in Evishanoran Lake.
Hollowcore concrete slabs have been used to create a 60 metre long bay which provides a complex network of nooks and crannies for crayfish to live and breed in. Below the water level, the bay has been faced with a number of materials such a woody debris, soil and hollow house bricks. This experiment will allow BREA to see what type of habitat features crayfish prefer to live in. Native trees have been planted on top to provide shade and food for the crayfish.
BREA had transferred 150 White-clawed Crayfish from the Ballinderry River to the lake to create a protected reserve breeding population. This will provide a growing stock for the river and wetlands, ensuring their survial for the future. A breeding tank and education facilities has been set up at Ballinderry Fish Hatchery, Cookstown.
Restoring crayfish numbers
An on-going survey by BRAE will establish where crayfish are living in the Ballinderry River and nearby Lough Neagh Wetlands. Based on the information gathered, work will be carried out to restore and recreate crayfish habitat along the river and nearby Lough Shore. Each year, young crayfish will be transferred from the breeding lake to the newly restored habitat, increasing the number of crayfish.
White-clawed Crayfish form an important part of the food chain in a heathy river. By boosting the number of crayfish in the target area, other species such as otter, wading birds and even fish, will benefit.
The project aims to:
- Find out where, and how many, crayfish live in the Ballinderry River and wetlands
- Create reserve breeding populations
- Find out which types of habitat local crayfish prefer to live in
- Re-introduce crayfish to newly restored habitat in the river and wetlands
- Raise the species profile through education.
The Ballinderry White-clawed Crayfish Breeding and Reintroduction Programme is a
Ballinderry River Enhancement Association (BREA) project in association with
Ballinderry Fish Hatchery Ltd and the Acheson & Glover Group.
The Project is jointy funded by:
- Lough Neagh Partnership through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund
- Ulster Wildlife Trust through Cookstown District Council's Landfill Communities Fund
- Ballinderry River Enhancement Association
- WWF Northern Ireland
The project is supported by Environment and Heritage Service (DoE), Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (Inland Fisheries) and Quarry Products Association Northern Ireland.