See all the latest news about the Pearl Mussel Project. Remember you can also check out the latest news on our Facebook and Twitter page (links opposite).

Out and about meeting some great farmers

Mary McAndrew, PMP North West catchment officer has been out and about meeting some great farmers since the lifting of Covid travel restrictions

As Mary expalins “Aside from some beautiful views in Dawros over the last few days, one of our farmers Stephen Joyce showed me an old cottage on his land which he has preserved. The cottage contained the original branding irons for the farm and other amazing pieces belonging to the original owners. Farmers in our catchments not only preserve the landscapes in these areas but they are also a mine of knowledge and information on local history, that I have found they are delighted to share”.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie @DeptAgriFoodMarine

Dawros Stephen Joyce1

Dawros Stephen Joyce

Dawros Stephen Joyce6

Dawros Stephen Joyce3

Dawros Stephen Joyce2

Pearl Mussel Project (PMP) Covid-19 Operational Plan June Update

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic we have made some changes to our day to day operations. The health, safety and wellbeing of our participant farmers, colleagues, project stakeholders and the wider community, is our priority during this time. We intend to continue our operations incorporating safeguards to ensure compliance with government guidelines, while allowing us to continue to provide contracted services to our clients. During this time we will be constantly reviewing our operations and procedures to ensure we are in line with best practice guidance.

Changes to normal operations

All staff are working from home. Our phone lines remain open and calls and emails will be dealt with as normal.

All upcoming farmer training meetings that were to be held over the next months are postponed until further notice. We are currently exploring alternative means of holding these remotely.

One-on-one farmer meetings can now take place subject to prior agreement with the relevant farmers. Any such meetings will follow strict adherence to social distancing guidelines. Where social distancing is not possible then additional safeguards will be implemented.

We will be in touch with farmers, advisors, or other stakeholders to make alternative arrangements for any scheduled face-to-face meetings. Where feasible scheduled face-to-face meetings will be replaced with phone or video call.

Precautions during farm visits

As of the 18th of May farm visits and field surveys will resume where they are deemed necessary, don’t require close person-person contact, are agreeable with the landowner, and can be conducted in line with any guidance from public authorities.

Where possible surveyors will work in isolation, but where necessary a maximum of two surveyors may visit a site. When two surveyors are working together they must travel to and from the site separately and maintain a distance of 2m at all times.

Facemasks will be worn if requested by landowner / other party and where possible all meetings will take place outdoors. All staff will be equipped with hand sanitiser and disinfectant wipes which are to be used regularly throughout the day. All gates and surfaces will be wiped or sprayed with disinfectant after handling.

All staff will practice good hand hygiene and coughing etiquette at all times and only visit shops/petrol stations when necessary during travel to and from field sites, and use contactless payments where possible.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our approach as necessary and will notify stakeholders of any significant changes. We wish all of our farmers and colleagues well during this difficult period.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie

PMP 2020 Revised Payment Bands and Rates

Following a review of the Programme, informed partly by farmer feedback, we have revised our payment structure for 2020. 

The main changes include:

1. Payment bands have been consolidated into three new bands (Band A: 0-30ha, Band B: 30-70ha, and Band C: >70ha). The effect of this change is that the highest payment rates will be available to the first 30ha of land rather than 15ha, as was the case on 2019.

2. Minor change to the payment rates across each band. Then most significant change is the higher payments available for habitat quality scores of 7.

2020 Payment Bands and Rates

3. The potential floodplain payment is now available to all farmers with land along the main freshwater pearl mussel rivers as a recognition of the importance of these lands in sustaining high water quality within the rivers. The payment is related to habitat quality (higher quality = higher payment) and the contribution the lands make towards supporting freshwater pearl mussel.

The effect of making the changes will increase the annual results-based payment for most participant farmers in 2020 onwards. The new payment rates will better reward farmers for providing environmental benefits and will create a greater incentive for farmers to improve the environmental quality of their farms.

You can see full details in the Pearl Mussel Programme - Terms & Conditions Update (June 2020)

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie

Young freshwater pearl mussel photos tell a sad story

Juvenile mussels Owenriff 3

On saturday morning we posted some images of young freshwater pearl mussel taken by Martin Gibbons one of PMP programme farmers in the Owenriff, Co. Galway last week.

Although we are really delighted to see juvenile mussels in the river, it turns out SEEING young mussels on surface of river bed is NOT a good thing, as Dr Evelyn Moorkens, Ireland’s foremost freshwater pearl mussel expert explains:

“A combination of low flows and poor river bed quality lead to a decrease in oxygen in the river bed where young mussels should be buried up to 10cm deep. In low oxygen situations mussels move up to the open water in an attempt to get enough oxygen to stay alive, as we see in the photos. 

These 8 to 12 year old mussels may be lucky enough to survive, but their younger relatives, buried in the river bed are not likely to survive these conditions. It just takes one day of these poor conditions in 2000 to kill the younger age groups of 1mm to 30mm juvenile pearl mussels. 

It’s a heartbreaking sight in one of our best rivers to lose these precious young mussels from the safety of the river bed. 

These photos show how important the work of the Pearl Mussel Project is in our “Top 8” catchments. The landowners and farmers that are part of the pearl mussel project are working hard to make sure the flow and condition of the best rivers improve so that hopefully we can get more juvenile recruitment and future juveniles can live and thrive where they belong - buried in the river bed”.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie

Juvenile mussels Owenriff 2

Juvenile mussels Owenriff 1

2020 Pearl Mussel Programme contract offers are in the post!

Following a review of the 2020 expression of interest forms received by PMP, 125 new contract offers have been sent to farmers over the last week. The offers include a farm plan which shows farm details and outlines potential payments. As it is a results based programme, the actual payment to farmers will depend on the environmental quality of their farms.

Farm plans post 2020

PMP now has 470 farmers in the programme, covering some 32,000ha of land, equal to approximately 80% of the land area within the eight priority freshwater pearl mussel catchments.

We urge farmers to accept offers as soon as possible by returning completed forms so that advisors can start to assess the results. 

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie

Postgraduate research investigates co-benefits of the PMP programme scoring system

Freshwater pearl mussel populations in Ireland are found in streams, rivers and lakes where there is very high-quality water. However, across Europe, this mussel species has been in long-term decline, mainly due to the deterioration in water quality arising from increased sediment and nutrient loading. Ireland holds nearly 45% of the remaining European population and therefore we have a particular responsibility to work towards protecting and enhancing the remaining populations and to promote appropriate land management within the best mussel catchments. 

The Pearl Mussel Project EIP, is an agri-environment scheme where payments to farmers in eight priority mussel catchments are linked to the quality of farmland for protecting and enhancing the mussel populations. The scoring system is based on the condition of habitat (peatlands, grasslands and woodland/scrub) for retaining water and nutrients, which is vital to ensure the long-term sustainability of the existing pearl mussel populations.

Farmland which is in good condition provides clean water that supports the freshwater pearl mussel. It is also likely to have co-benefits for other aspects of biodiversity – bringing about greater value for the project for the wider environment.  

A research collaboration between the Pearl Mussel Project and Institute of Technology Sligo (IT Sligo) and Galway Mayo Institute of Technology (GMIT) will work to explore this co-benefit for the environment.  Poppy is supervised by Dr. Dolores Byrne and Professor Frances Lucy, IT Sligo and Dr. James Moran (GMIT), with valuable input and direction of the PMP Team. James, Dolores and Dr. Derek McLoughlin of the PMP, worked on the RBAPS project ( to develop and trial a pilot results-based approaches in Ireland based on the successful Burren Programme model and some of this work underpins the PMP scoring system.

Poppy Overy’s postgraduate research at IT Sligo, will focus her first year’s research on the co-benefits of the PMP scoring system for vegetation and ground beetles.

Wet ground is important for attenuating water flow nutrients in the pearl mussel catchments, and this type of habitat would be expected to support certain groupings of plants and beetles.  The types, abundance and groupings of plants and ground beetles can be indicators of how other aspects of biodiversity are performing, i.e. they act as surrogates of wider biodiversity. Having information on these aspects of biodiversity specifically for land enrolled in the Pearl Mussel programme means that the scoring system can be linked to other ecological goods supported by having land in optimal condition for high water quality. This invaluable information will assist the PMP and farmers enrolled in the programme in understanding how their farm management supports different elements of biodiversity.

Wet ground can support a range of wetland plants such as the Burgandy marsh cinquefoil which are adapted to live in lower nutrient and wet conditions. Beetles, like the large carabid species in the centre of the photos, can also indicate wetter or drier ground conditions. Grasslands and peatlands in good hydrological condition for the freshwater pearl mussel will also provide opportunities for other biodiversity such as pollinating insects.

Benefit groups

Poppy will also investigate the restoration of two peatland sites within pearl mussel catchments. The restoration work is supported by the PMP through the Supporting Actions funding stream which encourages the completion of voluntary measures to improve habitat quality.

This work involves the rewetting of peat using drain blocking and sometimes adjustment of grazing levels, which we believe will cause positive changes to the habitat. The hydrology of peatland has a vital role in the entire ecosystem, with a direct influence on the integrity of the peat and the biodiversity composition. Poppy will monitor the changes in vegetation and ground beetles as indicators of how the rewetting process is progressing. On one former cutover peatland, Poppy’s work will feed into and be complemented by the Carbon Connects project, which is researching the changes in greenhouse house gas emissions as cutover peatland is rewetted.

As Poppy’s study progresses, she will look at expanding her research to investigate other elements of the Pearl Mussel Project scoring system and its benefits for biodiversity.

For further project information, contact: Dolores Byrne by email at

 #pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie

Rhododendron control training video: Pearl Mussel Project

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.43.40

With the on-going difficulties around holding face to face farmer training, the PMP have produced a  20 minute training video to cover issues relating to the clearance and management of Rhododendron on farms, one of the supporting action funded under the programme. 

Rhododendron is an alien invasive species that depletes peatland catchments of their ecological value. Where it occurs, this reduces the plot score and payment.

Rhododendron control is a Supporting Action that requires participant farmers to follow the approved method in the video. We ask farmer undertaking this action to note the verification code that will appear on your screen towards the end of the video and send this to the Pearl Mussel Project contact person below, to show you have followed the training. Contact details are also provided in the video.

PMP would like to thank Peter O'Toole of the National Parks and Wildlife Service and Killarney National Park for allowing us to use of video training footage.

You can watch this and other PMP YouTube videos here

Screen Shot 2020-05-06 at 10.46.21

 #pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie

Freshwater Pearl Mussel Education Pack Launched

Ed Pack Story map image 4

PMP have launched a new education resource pack ( for use by primary school children. This is the first in a series of education packs planned. 

The pack includes an introductory on-line story map, where students can learn more about the freshwater pearl mussel, where they occur, their biology, habitat requirements and how they help our rivers and the people living along them. This story map also explains why pearl mussels are endangered and what the Pearl Mussel Project are doing to help them.

The story map is complimented by a resource pack containing a series of activity sheets which teachers or students can download. The activity sheets include a biodiversity survey students can do at home, on the farm or in school, quizes and word puzzels. 

Ed Pack image 3

We are also running a colouring competition for the launch of the pack. We are asking children to draw a picture with the title ‘Biodiversity’. It is open to all primary school children and the closing date is May 15th 2020. Please email a photo of the drawing to or send your drawings to The Pearl Mussel Project, Bell Height, Kenmare, Co. Kerry.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie

Pearl Mussel Project (PMP) Covid-19 Operational Plan

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic we have made some changes to our day to day operations. The health, safety and wellbeing of our participant farmers, colleagues, project stakeholders and the wider community is our priority during this time. We intend to continue our operations as far as possible, incorporating safeguards to ensure compliance with government guidelines. During this time we will be constantly reviewing our operations and procedures to ensure we are in line with best practice guidance.

Changes to normal operations

All staff are working from home. Our phone lines remain open and calls and emails will be dealt with as normal. 

All meetings are carried out via phone or video conferencing. All upcoming farmer consultation meetings that were to be held over the next month will be held virtually via the Zoom platform. A video recording of the March 2020 farmer update meeting is also available to view on our website at any time.

We will be in touch with farmers, advisors, or other stakeholders to make alternative arrangements for any scheduled face-to-face meetings.

Farm visits and field surveys are on hold for the coming weeks. Although field surveys could fit within the list of essential services under the public health guidelines published by the Irish Government (March 2020) on the basis of being “Professional, Scientific and Technical activities", we have decided as a precautionary measure to postpone all field visits until further notice.

We will continue to monitor the situation and update our approach as necessary and will notify stakeholders of any significant changes. We wish all of our participant farmers and other colleagues well during this difficult period.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie

PMP Farmer Meetings Go Digital

With the health issues around the Covid-19 virus, the safety and wellbeing of our participant farmers, colleagues, and project stakeholders is very important to PMP.

So with this in mind PMP held its first online participant farmer meeting for the Owenriff catchment last night via the online meeting platform Zoom. 18 partcipants tuned in online to hear presentations from Derek McLoughlin and Mary McAndrew on the latest developments in the programme.

As Derek McLoughlin says “Our farmer meetings area really important, particularly from the communication perspective. We need to be able to stay in touch, and with the current situation this online method of communication allows us to do just that safely... its the way to go under the current circumstances.”

PMP aim to develop this training method and other online resources to meet the challenges posed by the current restrictions. Further details to follow. 

Our catchment officers and HQ will of course continue to handle any one-on-one farmer queries via phone.

You can watch the video here

PMP Online Zoom Farmer workshop2

PMP Online Zoom Farmer workshop

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPAgri #RuralNetwork #agriculture_ie 

© Pearl Mussel Project Ltd 2018