Freshwater Mussel Colony Re-Introduced into Scotland

A new freshwater mussel colony has been established at a secret location in the Scottish Highlands. The re-introduction by ecologists offers a chance to address the precipitous decline in the species. The success of the introduction will not been known until the slow-growing mussels become established; in 20 years or so.

Only 150 rivers throughout the world currently support freshwater mussel populations, over half of them in Scotland. Mussels remain threatened in the UK by indiscriminate killing by thieves, keen to find freshwater pearls which can change hands for hundreds of pounds. Speaking to the BBC, ecologist and mussel expert Peter Cosgrove said that his team had discovered a site with 800 mussel kills; the average age of each mussel 80 years: “If you do the maths that’s 64,000 years of mussel growth, just ripped from a river and destroyed. The rivers just cannot sustain that”. Mussels play a very important role in river ecology, filtering up to 50 litres of water per day.

Killing freshwater mussels has been illegal since 1998, with hefty fines of up to £10,000 for anyone guilty of killing even a single mussel. However, it is thought that no-one has ever been convicted. The police are now working on raising awareness amongst those in the Highlands about the high penalties for those committing such a crime, in the hope that this may prohibit thieves and cause witnesses to come forward.

See more on this story at the BBC News Website