Crayfish, catfish and snails: The perils of uncontrolled biological control
A recent proposal that the Australian redclaw crayfish Cherax quadricarinatus and hybrid catfish could potentially control the snail hosts of schistosomiasis has been criticised on the grounds that crayfish pose a severe threat to aquatic ecosystems into which it might be introduced. This note examines the issue further, pointing out that both lack the host-specificity requirement to be a successful biological control agent. The catfish Clarias gariepinus is an omnivore and snails form only a small proportion of its diet; there is no evidence to suggest that it controls snail populations anywhere in Africa. The same applies to other species that have been proposed as biological control agents. Simple laboratory experiments are not an adequate guide to the efficiency of an animal as a biological control agent and detailed ecological investigations would usually demonstrate that few African fish species have this capability.
Keywords: host-specificity, non-native species, predator-prey relations, schistosomiasis