The Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed T.D., announced today that a Project Team to run the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel Programme has been selected.
The programme is one of a number of European Innovation Partnership (EIP) projects being rolled out by the Department under Ireland’s Rural Development Programme 2014-2020. Two of these projects focus on areas agreed in advance with the EU Commission – conservation of the Hen Harrier and of the Freshwater Pearl Mussel.
A project team to lead the Hen Harrier Project was appointed in 2017 and the Minister is delighted to announce that a project team has now been selected to develop the actions at local level for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel. The Department is allocating a total budget of €10m for the Freshwater Pearl Mussel Scheme.
The selection was made on foot of a competitive tender operated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Following careful assessment of the proposals received, the selection committee identified ‘The Pearl Mussel Project Limited” as the approach which best reflected the aims and objectives of the new scheme.
The Minister said “I am very pleased at the quality of proposals put forward in response to his Department’s tender. I am delighted that the new Freshwater Pearl Mussel programme is moving closer to design and implementation. The new Project Team will now commence developing the various actions to be carried out by farmers in the areas concerned in consultation with my own Department and the National Parks and Wildlife Service of the Department of Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs, as well as with farmers on the ground.’
The winning Project Team is joint approach led by Dr Patrick Crushell of Wetland Surveys Ireland, bringing together a team with Dr Derek McLoughlin and other experienced ecologists, agricultural advisors and environmental scientists. The team will be supported by Tómas O’Connor of O’Connor Pyne & Co., Chartered Accountants.
The new scheme will be open to farmers in eight selected catchments for freshwater pearl mussel in Ireland with special emphasis on restoring the hydromorphology of the species’ aquatic habitat while also improving the quality of semi-natural terrestrial and wetland habitats. The catchments are Currane, Caragh and Kerry Blackwater in County Kerry, Ownagappul in County Cork, Bundorragha, Owenriff and Dawros in County Galway/Mayo and Glaskeelan in County Donegal.
Minister Creed added “Being a locally-led scheme this process will also include the local knowledge and inputs from farmers on the ground. Once the terms and conditions have been agreed the recruitment of farmers to this critical scheme will commence. This is a pilot project administered by an independent group with a strong local focus, working in partnership with my Department. This is a novel and innovative way of responding to local agri-environment challenges and we look forward to working with, and supporting our partners in the delivery of the schemes”.