ANGLERS and canoeists could be to blame for foreign species devastating water ecosystems around Britain, York academics have found.

A new study involving the University of York, University of Leeds and the Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science say invaders such as killer shrimp, zebra mussel and American signal crayfish could be “hitchhiking” around on canoeists’ and anglers’ kit.

These foreign species have already caused extensive environmental damage and economic costs estimated at almost £2 billion.

The study, based on a survey of more than 1,500 water sports enthusiasts across the UK, found that 64 per cent of anglers and 79 per cent of canoeists used their equipment in more than one waterway in a fortnight and most did not clean or dry their kit between uses.

Lead researcher Lucy Anderson of the University of Leeds’ faculty of biological sciences, said: “Once invasive species establish in rivers and lakes, they’re almost impossible to eradicate, so preventing their introduction and further spread in the first place is the best way that we have of controlling them.”

In 2011, the Government and environmental NGO’s, launched a “Check, Clean, Dry” campaign to try to address the issue by encouraging water users to clean their gear before moving to new sites.

While there has been significant support for the campaign, the study shows there is still some way to go to further reduce the risk.