A non-native species of mussels has been recorded in the south east of the UK for the first time

The Environment Agency

is urging people to report discoveries of an invasive mussel species after it

was recorded for the first time in the UK earlier this month.

Known as the quagga

mussel, the non-native species was discovered in the south east by Environment

Agency teams carrying out routine water quality testing on River Wraysbury,

with the species subsequently being found in Wraysbury reservoir.

Officials are now

asking for the public’s help to stop it spreading, with the species having the

ability to filter out large quantities of nutrients, reduce native mussel populations

and affect freshwater ecosystems.

Anglers and boaters

are being urged to following the ‘check, clean, dry’ approach and thoroughly

clean any equipment. 

Since its discovery,

the Environment Agency has been working with partners including Thames Water,

Angling Trust and local angling clubs, to put biosecurity measures in place.

Work is now taking

place to monitor the River Thames and reservoirs in the local area to

investigate the extent of the problem and the distance that the quagga mussel

has spread.

The Environment

Agency’s Sarah Chare, said: “Invasive species – such as the quagga mussel –

cost the UK economy in excess of £1.8bn every year. And while Britain’s rivers

are the healthiest for over 20 years, rivers that harbour non-native species

could fall short of tough EU targets.

“The quagga mussel is

a highly invasive non-native species, affecting water quality and clogging up

pipes. We are monitoring the extent of its spread and working closely with

partners to ensure they are aware of it. 

The public are being

encouraged to report any sightings of the quagga mussel through

an online form
.

Angling Trust’s head

of freshwater Mark Owen said: “It’s vitally important that all water users

including anglers, take every possible precaution to stop this species

spreading throughout the UK.

“Quagga mussels could

do untold damage to freshwater and estuarine environment if they are allowed to

spread, which could have a significant impact on marine and freshwater fish

stocks.”

The quagga mussel

tends to be around the size of a human thumbnail but can grow to about 4cm.

Their larvae are not

visible to the naked eye, which makes drying a critical step in applying good

biosecurity.