South Kerry farmers to benefit most from new Freshwater Pearl Mussel Project

Wetland Surveys Ireland, a Kenmare based environmental consultancy, have been appointed by the Department of Agriculture to administer the ‘Pearl Mussel Project’, a new €10 million locally led scheme for farmers. The overall aim of the project is to reward farmers for improving the local environment with a view to ensuring the long term survival of freshwater pearl mussels in Ireland. The national scheme will be open to farmers across eight priority river systems. Four of these top quality river catchments occur within an hour of Kenmare namely the Kerry Blackwater, Currane (east of Lough Currane, Waterville), Caragh (around Glencar), and Ownagappul (Ardgroom). The main project team is based in Kenmare.
Freshwater pearl mussels are a large species of mussel that occur in very clean streams, rivers, and occasionally lakes. They are Ireland’s longest-living animal with lifespans of over 120 years being recorded. Despite large numbers remaining in some rivers, they have declined dramatically in the last century and are currently on the verge of extinction due to the fact that no young mussels are surviving to adulthood in many rivers. The priority rivers in the scheme are known to support the largest remaining populations of the legally protected mussel in Ireland.
The Pearl Mussel Project will work closely with farmers in each area giving them an opportunity to be recognised and financially rewarded for delivering environmental benefits. Dr Patrick Crushell, Project Manager, stated “We are delighted to be leading this exciting project which we hope will deliver benefits to local farm communities, while also enhancing the environment that we all enjoy. In Kenmare, we are lucky to live in an area of great natural beauty, the farmers in the area are key to managing this valuable resource and should be rewarded for doing so in a sustainable way. As part of the project we also hope to instil a sense of pride in their rivers which are amongst the most natural and pristine in all of Europe.”
The scheme is currently being designed by the project team and they will be holding meetings with farmers in each local area later in the year. In the meantime the project team would like to hear from any interested farmers in the Blackwater, Glencar, Ardgroom, and Waterville areas. Farmers with land that drains towards any of the rivers will be eligible for the scheme regardless of whether the lands actually adjoin the river. Further information is available on the recently launched project website (PearlMusselProject.ie).

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