04 March 2015

Can civil servants defuse a bomb? An Irish crayfish problem

There are papers you write for your self.

There are papers you write for your colleagues.

I wrote my latest paper for civil servants.

My newest paper on the sale of marbled crayfish is short. I bet that some people reading it might wonder why it’s not just a blog post. I debated with myself a lot whether I should try to get it in a journal. (I assure you, it would have been much easier to blog about it that publish it in a journal.)

It started when I was checking my email, and saw one of my regular alerts for “marbled crayfish.” I don’t think I can recreate the sound I made when I read one of my alerts and saw the link was from Ireland. It was a sort of sharp, squeeky inhaling – probably close to an “Eeep!”

I panicked.

When I describe the situation native European crayfish, the phrase I almost always use is, “horror show.” It was just so obvious to me after I went to the International Association for Astacology conference in 2010 (blogged here). Between introduced crayfish species and crayfish plague, things for native European crayfish species are bad.

Ireland has been an exception. There’s only one native species, the white-clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes, pictured above). And those Irish crayfish populations are in pretty good shape, relatively speaking, mainly because there aren’t any exotic invasive crayfish species in Ireland.

Ireland and Marmorkrebs – a cloning species that needs only one to start a population, and carries crayfish plague – would be a spectacularly bad combination.

I wanted to get this into a journal because documenting occurrences like this is important for policy and enforcement purposes. Ireland is ostensibly doing everything right. Importing crayfish into Ireland is already illegal. Ireland has public awareness campaigns about crayfish. And yet people are still selling Marmorkrebs publicly.

I hoped that for anyone who had some power to do something about Ireland’s crayfish, a scientific article in a peer reviewed journal might have more clout than a blog post.

After I decided that I wanted to publish this in a journal, it was not smooth sailing. Finding a home for this article was not easy, because it’s not exactly a traditional biology article.

While my article was being reviewed, I panicked again. A scientific society newsletter article scooped mine: it also reported Marmorkrebs were for sale in Ireland. I thought, “There goes my paper’s reason for uniqueness.” But there were enough differences that I thought my paper would still have something new and important to report. More importantly, a couple of sentences in the middle of a society newsletter was still not part of the mainstream literature. Because one goal was to make sure that the sale of exotic crayfish in Ireland was not overlooked, I still believed a paper was necessary.

And I found a third case of Marmorkrebs for sale in Ireland at the page proofs stage. Adding things at this late stage is always tricky, but the editor was cooperative and it went in, so the article became at least a little more substantive than what I initially submitted.

The final challenge was institutional rather than editorial or scientific. I was hoping to have this paper out at the end of 2014, but the article processing fees did not get paid in time. Sigh. Paying a bill should be routine, not be something to celebrate. But I did celebrate when it was paid, so my article wasn’t pushed back a second time.

Now that the article is out, I hope that it will make a few people aware that Ireland has a great resource in its crayfish. And maybe it will act as a slight nudge to stop non-native crayfish, like Marmorkrebs, from getting loose in Ireland’s rivers and lakes and streams.


Faulkes Z. 2015. A bomb set to drop: parthenogenetic Marmorkrebs for sale in Ireland, a European location without non-indigenous crayfish. Management of Biological Invasions 6(1): 111-114. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/mbi.2015.6.1.09

Top crayfish picture from here.

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