Recreational divers in Wales are being asked for help monitoring crawfish levels following concern over a “dramatic” fall in numbers.
Crawfish – also known as crayfish, spiny or rock lobster – have a vital role in marine ecosystems, according to the Wales Biodiversity Partnership.
The group is funding a project asking dive clubs around Wales to record sightings of crawfish during dives.
The creature is now on a biodiversity action plan for conservation measures.
Crawfish are reddish, lobster-like creatures lacking large pincers but covered in spines and are found in exposed areas of rocky seabed around the coast.
Divers are being asked to look through their old dive log books for records of crawfish in Welsh waters.
Kate Lock, who is coordinating the Welsh Crawfish Recording Project, said: “Without crawfish in our seas, we lose one of our larger predators, which play a vital role in marine ecosystems.
“We have a duty to protect crawfish and gather information on their distribution and abundance around our coast.”
Crawfish were common sights to divers up until the 1970s, but are much less likely to be seen nowadays.
Their numbers have dropped to such an extent they are now a priority for conservation, and are listed on the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.
Countryside Council for Wales Marine Biodiversity Officer Aethne Cooke said: “Information from divers on where they have previously spotted crawfish when diving is extremely useful information.
“It provides an indication of how much recovery is needed. If managed sustainably, such a recovery could contribute to the crawfish becoming a viable fishery once again.”