Endangered river mussels receive major funding boost

15 September 2023

Natural England has this week announced that a project designed to improve the habitat for Atlantic salmon in the River Esk has been successful in securing a share of a £14.5 million grant scheme to support species recovery across England.

The REStore project aims to address obstacles that hinder fish migration and improve gravel spawning sites for salmon to lay their eggs. By improving conditions for salmon, the project will also directly benefit the freshwater pearl mussel, a species which relies on the salmon family for the early stages of its lifecycle.

The North York Moors National Park Authority is one of 45 organisations (representing 63 projects) that have been successful in applying for a share of the £14.5 million Species Recovery Programme Capital Grants Scheme. In total it will receive more than £498,000.

The scheme is designed to fund targeted action to recover the most threatened species. It will support efforts to fine-tune habitat conditions for some of England’s rarest species and help find the best approaches to enable endangered wildlife to survive and thrive.

Mike Hawtin, Head of Nature Recovery Projects at the North York Moors National Park Authority, said:

“The River Esk is home to Yorkshire’s last surviving population of the freshwater pearl mussel, so we really are at a critical moment when it comes to securing the future of this fascinating species.

“The mussel spends its larval stage attached to the gills of salmon, hitching a lift upstream to the gravel beds where the fish spawn. The pearl mussel larvae then drop off and fall to the bottom of the river, where they will eventually develop into filter-feeding juvenile mussels.

“Conservation of this endangered species is therefore critically dependent on reducing obstacles such as weirs, culverts and road fords that can prevent successful migration of salmon upstream to their gravel bed spawning sites.”

The project aims to open-up and enhance more than 18km of river, enabling improved passage to spawning sites.

In a triple triumph for the rivers of North Yorkshire, funding from the Species Recovery Programme has also been awarded to Yorkshire Wildlife Trust; to help local populations of native, white-clawed crayfish, and to York St John University; to provide habitat for water voles, tansy beetles and great crested newts along a stretch of the Foss River.

David Amuzu, of Natural England in Yorkshire, said:

“Our wildlife is facing extreme pressures and it is important we work together to take action to prevent further decline of some of the most rare and endangered species in our region.

“We are delighted to support these projects across Yorkshire to address some of the challenges and boost the long-term prospects of our rare species in our internationally important environments across the region.”

Tony Juniper, Chair of Natural England, said:

“The money has been awarded following a competitive application round, and will be used by environmental charities, wildlife organisations, local authorities and charities in projects across the country.

“The projects will help deliver the Nature Recovery Network, creating, improving and connecting more wildlife-rich areas benefitting people and helping species to thrive.”


Notes to editors

Further details of the grant scheme can be found on the Natural England bog.

Media contact

Nina Beadle, Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority.
Tel: 01439 772577
Email: press@northyorkmoors.org.uk

The North York Moors National Park

The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952, it became Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres) the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 8.4 million visitors a year.

The National Park has two visitor centres, Danby Lodge National Park Centre and Sutton Bank National Park Centre, providing opportunities for cycling, walking, eating, picnicking, shopping, crafts and wildlife-watching. The centre in Danby also houses the Inspired by… gallery, which features regularly changing exhibitions by artists who draw their inspiration from the North York Moors.

The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire, providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities with nearly 14% of staff being apprentices from local families.
To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park, visit www.northyorkmoors.org.uk

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