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Please help to protect freshwater mussels in Wester Ross

Posted: Tuesday 21 April, 2015 @ 15:11:08

Please report any mussel shells that you find on river banks in Wester Ross

Press release: 21 April, 2015

People across Wester Ross are uniting to help protect the area’s important freshwater pearl mussels as part of the Riverwatch scheme.

Freshwater pearl mussels are rare molluscs that live in the gravel beds of clean rivers and feed by filtering water and removing fine particles. This activity helps keep our rivers clean and benefits species such as salmon and trout.

They are, however, critically endangered, and Scotland is one of their remaining strongholds.

The Riverwatch project is the latest initiative in Wester Ross to protect freshwater pearl mussels along the west coast and will launch in Gairloch at Wester Ross Fisheries Trust tomorrow (Wednesday 22 April).

Riverwatch volunteers are being invited to attend the launch, which will feature a walk along a local river to discuss pearl mussel ecology, followed by training in identification and reporting of pearl mussel crime.

The new work comes in response to reports of recent illegal pearl fishing in the West Sutherland area.

Natalie Young, Riverwatcher from the Pearls in Peril LIFE project, said: “Wester Ross has some globally important populations of pearl mussels and it is essential that these mussels are protected from pearl fishing. This is especially important in response to the spate of pearl fishing incidents reported in the Lochinver area last year.

“Freshwater pearl mussel populations on the West coast are extremely vulnerable to pollution and illegal fishing. The Riverwatch scheme aims to raise awareness of the threat to pearl mussels from illegal exploitation and to train volunteer Riverwatchers how to spot and report pearl mussel crime.

“Freshwater pearl mussels have historically been fished for the pearls they may produce. However, they very rarely contain pearls and they are fully protected under law - it is a crime to kill, injure, take or disturb freshwater pearl mussels.”

Chief Inspector Colin Gough, Police Scotland Area Commander South Highland, said: “Illegal pearl fishing has the potential to devastate the fragile populations we have here in the Highlands.

"Freshwater pearl mussels are protected by law and are a very important part of a river's habitat therefore it is vital we encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity.

“Police Scotland will continue to work in close partnership with the Pearls in Peril LIFE+ project by supporting their river patrols, investigating any reports of this type of crime and undertaking enforcement action wherever possible."

The Riverwatch initiative works in collaboration with Police Scotland, land owners, local communities, Fishery Boards and Trusts and other river users. As part of the project several other schemes are to be launched this year across Scotland.

Potential Riverwatchers who would like to attend the launch should meet at the Wester Ross Fisheries Trust at 10am or contact Natalie  on 01463 783505 or Peter on 01445 712 899 / for further information.

For more information about the Pearls in Peril Project please visit: