The Clyde River Foundation has obtained direct evidence that an otter has been killed in an illegal crayfish trap set recently in a tributary of the Clyde. The shocking images of a drowned otter were taken by an angler who retrieved the trap (see below).
Otters are legally protected as European Protected Species and, under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2007, it is an offence to deliberately or recklessly capture, injure or kill an otter. Furthermore, trapping crayfish is illegal without a licence in Scotland, although the practice is apparently being encouraged by the sale of traps within the catchment and from the internet, and by tales from elsewhere of the practice occurring without sanction. Responsibility for licensing has recently moved from the Scottish Government to Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency now has overall responsibility for tackling aquatic invasive species, such as American signal crayfish.
Promotion of the notion of a sustainable fishery or “eat on sight”-type advice in other locations by politicians (national and local), celebrity chefs and anglers over the last few years has not helped matters. To be clear, trapping will not solve any of the problems caused by this invasive, non-native species in the Clyde system. Anyone setting unlicensed crayfish traps is breaking the law for no environmental benefit; it is a purely selfish act. Bluntly, anyone selling, buying and/or using unlicensed “crayfish” traps in the Clyde catchment or elsewhere in Scotland is already or is likely to be complicit in a criminal activity. An otter was killed in a trap in Galloway in 2011, so we can only assume that whoever set the Clyde trap was either ignorant of that fact, or just did not care. The presence of otters in some areas is an indication of how far the Clyde has recovered from centuries of pollution and disturbance, and it is deeply regrettable that whoever was responsible for setting this trap wasn’t wise enough to appreciate the bigger picture.