Did you know about our pearl mussels?

Did you know that some of the rivers that flow into Kenmare Bay are home to animals called Freshwater Pearl Mussels? Why not get to know these interesting creatures a little bit better by reading about them here!

• Freshwater Pearl Mussels are an endangered species protected by law in Ireland and Europe
• 90% of all the Freshwater Pearl Mussels in Europe died in the 20th century
• Ireland has some of the largest remaining populations of Freshwater Pearl Mussels and the Iveragh and Beara peninsulas are home to almost one quarter of the European Freshwater Pearl Mussel population. This is something to be very proud of as the mussels are a key indicator of an exceptionally clean natural environment.
• Many of these mussels have lived through both world wars, with the oldest mussels being up to 120 years old!
• Each day a single Freshwater Pearl Mussel can filter the amount of water it takes to fill a bath
• This filtering plays a role in keeping our rivers and streams clean, providing us with safe drinking water and ensuring that the water flowing into Kenmare Bay is of good quality
• Young Freshwater Pearl Mussels “hitch a ride” on the gills of salmon or trout for the first few months of their life (see life cycle diagram below)
• After they fall off their host fish, small mussels stay buried in the river bed for 5 years
• While they are buried in the river bed, the young mussels need very clean water with high levels of oxygen to survive
• Very few of these young mussels survive to become adults, and most mussels in our rivers are over 20 years old. Imagine if there were no children living in your area – just adults!
• If this trend continues, it is likely that the Freshwater Pearl Mussels living in west Cork and Kerry will become extinct in the near future! This would be a shame considering that these animals have been present in Ireland since the end of the last ice age.