Invasive fish species in the largest lakes of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England: the collective UK experience.
An invasive species is defined as an alien (or introduced or non-native) species whose establishment and spread threaten ecosystems, habitats or species with harm. Such threats to UK lake fish communities have long been appreciated and this review assembles case histories, including new data, from the largest lakes of Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales and England to examine the hypothesis that at least some of these introductions have become invasive. Loch Lomond in Scotland has experienced six introductions [chub (Leuciscus cephalus), common bream (Abramis brama), crucian carp (Carassius carassius), dace (Leuciscus leuciscus), gudgeon (Gobio gobio) and ruffe (Gymnocephalus cernuus)], of which the most significant has been that of the percid ruffe, which has been implicated in a recent decline of the native coregonid whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus). In Northern Ireland, the introduction of the cyprinid roach (Rutilus rutilus) to Lough Neagh has apparently had a negative impact on some overwintering waterfowl, although the native coregonid pollan (Coregonus autumnalis) remains abundant. Llyn Tegid in Wales has received three introductions [rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), ruffe and silver bream (Blicca bjoerkna)], although no impacts on the native whitefish or other fish populations have been observed. In England, individuals of at least 12 native and non-native fish species have been brought to Windermere for the purpose of live-baiting, although only those of the cyprinids roach and common bream have established abundant populations. At the same time, the native salmonid Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) has declined markedly while the native esocid pike (Esox lucius) has shown changes in abundance, distribution and individual condition, although these developments have not been shown to be causally linked. None of these introductions were sanctioned by appropriate fisheries or other regulatory bodies and almost all of them probably arose from the release or escape of live-bait used by pike anglers. Of the 10 species introductions documented here, four (common bream, gudgeon, roach and ruffe) have established abundant populations and two of these (roach and ruffe) have apparently caused or currently threaten harm, supporting the hypothesis that at least some of these introductions have become invasive.