After A & C Construction directors were fined £11,000 on 19 March for causing damage to freshwater pearl mussels, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is encouraging developers and contractors to contact them for advice whenever dealing with protected wildlife.
Work on the River Lyon to develop the Inverinian Hydro Scheme caused the death and injury of hundreds of freshwater pearl mussels in 2010, after a thick layer of fine silt covered extensive stretches of river bed. Large colonies of mussels were then unable to breath or feed properly because of the silt, with the majority of mussels suffocating. The investigation was completed by the Tayside Police, along with SNH and SEPA staff.
Seventy-two of Scotland’s rivers support reproducing populations of freshwater pearl mussel including many of the world's largest populations. The species is one of the most critically endangered molluscs in the world.
Although Scotland contains many of the world's most important remaining populations, even in Scotland there has been a dramatic decline in the number of rivers that continue to support freshwater pearl mussels. Over the last 100 years, more than one third of the rivers that used to contain freshwater pearl mussels no longer do so. A further third only contain old freshwater pearl mussels, with no sign of reproduction. Recent surveys have shown that the River Lyon contained large reproducing pearl populations, some of the largest in the South Highlands.
Iain Sime, SNH’s freshwater pearl mussel expert, said:
“The pearl mussels in the River Lyon are immensely important in the struggle to conserve pearl mussels. This case shows how easily someone can cause a huge amount of irreversible damage. There is plenty of best practice guidance out there. Ignorance is no excuse: developers and contractors must be aware of their duties under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, so we’d encourage them to contact us if they have any concerns about their plans and their impact on wildlife.”
For further details of the case, see the Crown Office website at http://bit.ly/Y03lSa
Scott Petrie, Regional Manager for NE & Central said:
“The presence of freshwater pearl mussels is an important indicator of the quality of water and Scotland supports many of the world’s important populations. They are however, extremely vulnerable to water pollution as well as in-river engineering works. Scottish Land & Estates would urge all of our members considering developing or maintenance works in or around rivers to contact their local SEPA and SNH area office before undertaking these works as well as keeping an eye out for river pollution.
For information on the protection afforded to freshwater pearl mussels, click here.