More sealife invaders to Lincolnshire coastline

A Chinese mitten crab.

A Chinese mitten crab.

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AFTER warnings of jellyfish and turtle invasions on the Lincolnshire coast this year, experts say the newest invaders on the list are crabs, limpets and shrimps.

Our coastal waters are attracting new species of sealife from across the world this summer thanks to warming temperatures. Many never seen before by people in the UK.

Slipper limpets, veined rapa whelks and Chinese mitten crabs are among the next inline to foray up the Mablethorpe and Sutton coast, all competing for space along our shores with our home grown marine dwellers.

Many are arriving in UK seas aboard vessels or clinging onto debris and the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) are looking to keep track of these non-natives and are urging people to help identify them.

As colourful and exciting as the new species sound, Emma Snowden from the MCS says their impact on our own habitats, species and ecosystems could be destructive. “Alien marine species are dwelling in the space that our native species would usually inhabit,” she said. “Meaning UK wildlife like crabs and shrimps are, quite simply, being squeezed out.”

One of the invaders, wireweed, a type of brown seaweed, is rampant in some parts of the UK as it adapts to our sea temperatures. It takes over rockpools and the seabed, meaning our own native seaweeds have less space to grow, and boat users are having trouble with them becoming entangled in propellers.

The Chinese mitten crab, with its hairy claws, can grow to the size of a dinner plate. It burrows in muddy estuaries and weakens banks often built up to create flood defences by local authorities.

Emma added: “Slipper limpets reproduce at an incredible rate, copulating in long chains and smothering the seabed as their dead shells pile up. In some places, like Brighton beach, you only have to scoop up a handful of pebbles to see how many slipper limpet shells are being washed up there – they are totally rampant!”

“We know they are here but what we need to establish is the full extent of the damage that they can cause and how we can combat it,” said Emma.

Guy Baker, Communications Officer at the Marine Biological Association says the damage from invaders is being done on two fronts: “The threats to our marine environment are increasing and this matters not simply because of losses of native biodiversity, but also because biological invasions are potentially damaging to the industries that depend on healthy and productive inshore waters. Working together we can reach a wider audience and gather more information on marine invasive non-native species.”

Readers can download the Marine Non-native Species ID Guide from www.mcsuk.org and report sigtings at www.marlin.ac.uk/rml or by phoning 01752 633291.