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Broads Authority appoints Diss man to tackle Norfolk’s killer shrimp invasion

PUBLISHED: 16:25 11 September 2012 | UPDATED: 13:08 12 September 2012

Barton Turf Staithe where killer shrimp has been growing in population around the Barton Broad area. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Barton Turf Staithe where killer shrimp has been growing in population around the Barton Broad area. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2012

He has become the man on the frontline in the war against a 3cm menace regarded by anglers as a dire threat to the Broads’ fish stocks.

William Burchnall, 32, has been appointed by the Broads Authority to the new post of wetland biodiversity officer and the focus of his attention will be curbing the spread of the voracious killer shrimp - dikerogammarus villosus - which feeds on a host of native species, from damselfly nymphs to water boatmen and small fish.

Since the shrimp was first discovered in Barton Broad in the spring, its spread has been monitored down the River Ant into the Bure and, last month, it showed up for the first time in Wroxham Broad.

In a high profile campaign, Mr Burchnall will be visiting sailing, rowing and angling clubs and making contact with all other Broads-users from water skiers to windsurfers.

He said: “Human activity is the most likely cause of spreading killer shrimps and it is vitally important Broads users ‘check, clean and dry’ any equipment or clothing that has been in contact with the water.

“The killer shrimps found in Wroxham Broad were very low in number and could only have got there from Barton Broad or the River Ant through human influence on a boat or on someone’s kit.”

Mr Burchnall, of Green Street, Hoxne, near Diss, stressed the fact that isolated parts of the Broads, such as the Trinity Broads near Great Yarmouth, and neighbouring beauty spots such as the River Wensum could still be protected from the shrimp if people were vigilant.

He said: “Ahead of the pike fishing season starting on October 1, I’ll be releasing more promotional material, but I would like to acknowledge the efforts local pike fishermen have already been making to stop the spread.”

Mr Burchnall, who is chairman of the National Schools Sailing Association, gained experience of tackling the shrimp last year when he was organising a major youth sailing event on Grafham Water, in Cambridgeshire.

The lake was the first place the invasive shrimp was found in the UK in 2010 and he had to ensure all the young sailors were aware of the techniques to combat it.

He said studies on the impact of the shrimp on the continent, where it has spread from Eastern Europe, showed it could lead to species such as damselfly becoming virtually extinct in certain areas.

Its long-term impact was not 100pc clear but the concern was that the shrimp’s predation of invertebrates could affect the stock of fish which also feed on them.

Mr Burchnall, who in his third day in post, devised a method of steam cleaning the Barton Broad weed harvester to eradicate killer shrimps, said that adhering to ‘check, clean and dry’ would also prevent the spread of other invasive species such as floating pennywort and Himalayan balsam.

Any Broads users wanting advice or a meeting with Mr Burchnall are asked to call him on 01603-756003 or email him at will.burchnall@broads-authority.gov.uk

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