WARNING SIGN: “Check, Clean, Dry” is the message being given out to users of the River Tees
WARNING SIGN: “Check, Clean, Dry” is the message being given out to users of the River Tees

SIGNS have gone up along the Tees encouraging people to follow a nationwide code which aims to cut the spread of non-native plants and wildlife in the river and on its banks.

Invasive plants and animals from all over the world have been introduced accidentally to British waters. More than 50 different freshwater species have already been found in the UK’s lakes, rivers and other waterways.

Signal crayfish are a particular problem in Tees as it runs through the dale.

Ben Lamb, general and catchment partnership officer of the Tees Rivers Trust, said: “Non-native species are a real problem in our lakes and rivers.”

In an attempt to raise awareness and halt the spread of non-native species the trust has put up information boards along the river to publicise their latest initiative, urging visitors to: Check, Clean, Dry.

River users are being encouraged to check their equipment and clothing, paying particular attention to areas that are damp or difficult to inspect.

The importance of cleaning and washing equipment, footwear and clothing is also being emphasised.

If any plants or animals are discovered on equipment then they should be left at the body of water where they were found.

Mr Lamb said: “It is very easy to transport seeds and spores from one area of water to another on clothes, shoes, fishing equipment, even on your dog.

“Ideally you should disinfect all your equipment with a proprietary iodine spray.

“Failing that drying your things in sunlight where the UV light acts as a natural disinfectant is the next best option.”

Non-native species can cause irreversible environmental problems.

Mr Lamb explained; “ If you are in water where signal crayfish spawn, it is very easy to get their spores on your clothes and equipment and then transfer them into an area that is not affected.

“Just over the Pennines, in the Lake District, there have been several cases where the signal crayfish has got into waters containing the native white claw crayfish, decimating its population through competition and disease,” he said.

More information on invasive species and what you can do to stop their spread is available at: www.nonnative species.org