Pearl Mussel and Salmon Recovery Project
The freshwater pearl mussel is one of the longest-lived invertebrates known, and can live for more than 100 years. Formerly widespread and abundant in England and Wales, its numbers have severely declined with most former populations now on the verge of extinction.
The decline in pearl mussel populations is due to a number of factors:
- Habitat degradation caused by sedimentation of river gravels.
- Decline in populations of host fish (salmon and trout).
- Water quality issues.
- Historic Pearl Fishing
The pearl mussels in the River Esk are the last surviving population in Yorkshire, and only a few mussels are left. The vast majority of the remaining pearl mussels are aged 60 years+, and the mussels in the Esk have not produced young for over 25 years, it is likely that the Esk population will become extinct in the next 40 years unless action is taken to halt this decline.
Pearl mussels are a very important 'indicator species', which show us the health of our river systems. When species like this start to disappear, then we know that all is not well with the river eco-system.
Funding for the project has been obtained from Biffa Award for the current project running for three years from January 2015. The project has been funded through a number of other sources since 2008 including WREN Biodiversity Action Fund, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Yorventure, Environment Agency, LEADER and the North York Moors National Park Authority.
Useful information to download
Project newsletter (pdf)
Simon Hirst, River Esk Project Officer
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