The Chinese Mitten Crab

The Chinese Mitten Crab (Eriocheir sinensis)

An exotic addition to Yorkshire’s aquatic fauna.


A native of China, this impressive beast, which spends much of its life in brackish and fresh water, is thought to have been transported to Europe in ballast tanks of shipping. It was first noticed in Germany in 1922 and is now well established in several of the continental river systems which discharge into the Baltic and southern North Sea (Fryer 1993).



In 1949 a young angler from Castleford caught a mitten crab in Southfield Reservoir, a compensation reservoir for the adjacent Aire/Calder Navigation nr. Thorne (SE/6518). The animal was trans-located to a ‘fenced off’ section of a stream near Hollywell Wood, Glasshoughton but disappeared a few days later (Limbert & Wall 1983).



In 1976 and 1979 specimens were found in eel nets on the south Humber shoreline near the River Ancholme outlet (SE/9721) and in 1984 one was actually located in the Ancholme itself (Clark 1984). In 1984 unconfirmed anecdotal evidence came from eel nets-men working the Blacktoft-Faxfleet area of the estuarine Ouse/Humber confluence (SE/82) (Mel. Todd pers. comm.1984). In 1986 one was found further up the tidal Ouse at Cawood (SE/5738) and in September 1991 ‘a colony’ was found in the River Wharfe (presumably the lower reaches) (Fryer 1993).


On 1st October 1995 one was caught on rod and line in the New Junction Canal, Kirk Bramwith, Doncaster (SE/6111). After being examined by Environment Agency biologists it was donated to Doncaster Museum by Chris Firth (EA Fisheries Officer) (Accession no. DONMG ZZ.267). This specimen was exhibited at the YNU Conference on the ‘Freshwater Ecology of Yorkshire’ (March 2001).


The results of a new study undertaken by Dr Matt Bentley and a team of co-workers at the University of Newcastle monitored spread in British waters included a record from the Tees (NZ/52) in 2001


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