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

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

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Pearl Mussel Project Newsletter: Issue 1

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The Pearl Mussel Project have produced a short farm newsletter with information on some of the latest developments within the programme. 

Download your copy of Pearl Mussel Project News, Issue 1 from our PMP Publications section. 

We hope to produce further issues of Pearl Mussel Project News during the year. So check in again to see the latest programme developments.

If you would like to submit an article, photograph or item for inclusion in the newsletter which relates the programme email Mary McAndrew at

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Pearl Mussel Project Farmer Profile


Tom Keane is one of the Pearl Mussel Project Pilot Farmers who farms in the Dawros Catchment in Connemara. Tom came back from England in 1983 to farm with his father. He started his own flock with 9 hoggets he bought in Maam Cross and now has a flock of 160 ewes.

Tom  is very passionate about where he farms, he feels one of the best things about farming in this area is the wild nature of the area, “It’s not the easiest place to farm, but I love the area”.

Tom thinks the Pearl Mussel Programme is great for the area. When he was a child, both pearl mussel and fish stocks in the catchment were plentiful. This is not the case anymore and programmes like this can only help.

Tom used to feed meal, but he found it was just too costly. He feels the key to getting the best from his farm is “getting the land to work for you”. He ensures his stock are rotated regularly and works with nature to get the best from his land.


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Pearl Mussel Project - Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update


With the health, safety and wellbeing of our participant farmers, colleagues, and project stakeholders in mind, we are providing this update on how the Pearl Mussel Project will deal with and work through the Covid-19 virus outbreak for the foreseeable future.

Most of our staff will be working remotely although a limited number, for now, will continue to work from the office. Our phone lines will remain open and emails will be dealt with as normal.

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

One-on-one farmer meetings will continue for the time being, subject to prior agreement with the relevant farmers and we will strictly adhere to social distancing guidelines during such meetings.

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.

Scheduled fieldwork and farm surveys will continue as planned where it doesn’t require close person-person contact, and this is agreeable with the landowner, and can be conducted in line with any guidance from public authorities.

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. guidelines summary:

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Send us your photos!

The Pearl Mussel Project invites students, farmers, local residents and amateur photographers to submit photos for our 2021 calendar. The theme for the calendar will be “Farming for nature in a freshwater pearl mussel catchment”. 

Photos can be of anything topic or theme that you feel captures what it is like to farm in your catchment. The best entries as judged by PMP will be included in our 2021 calendar. Winners will receive a complimentary copy of the final 2021 calendar. 

Photos should be emailed to and should be in landscape format. Please remember to let us know who took the photograph and where and when it was taken. 

So get snapping and best of luck!

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Deadline Extended to join PMP

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The PMP would like to advise all farmers interested in joining the Pearl Mussel Programme in 2020, that the closing date for receipt of Expression of Interest Form has been extended to the 31 March 2020. 

So don’t delay and register your interest in joining the scheme by completing and returning your Expression of Interest Form (PMPF1) today. 

New PMP SW Catchment Officer Appointed


The Pearl Mussel Project are delighted to welcome our new catchment officer Stephen O'Shea to the team working on the project to protect freshwater pearl mussels in Ireland. 

Stephen has worked as an agri-environmental consultant since 2015. He has designed GLAS plans, nutrient management plans and commonage plans in the south Kerry region since the commencement of the GLAS agri-environmental schemes in 2015. He has lead GLAS farmer training programmes both in the classroom and in the field. Stephen has also conducted numerous habitat surveys on farms highlighting both pristine habitats and the environmental stresses that threaten these. He has worked directly on the Kerry Life Project recording the issues that negatively impact the Freshwater Pearl Mussel habitats. He has conducted research into the sedimentation processes of river bed habitats. Stephen is also an active upland sheep farmer; farming the family farm near the Caragh River in Glenbeigh.

Stephen is taking over the post formerly held by Tara Challoner, and will be working with farmers in the southern catchments in Cork and Kerry out of our Kenmare office. 

You can email Stephen at

How PMP farm supporting actions help mussels and wetlands – a thought for World Wetlands Day

Wetland habitats, in particular blanket bog and associated seepage zones, are common throughout the most important freshwater pearl mussel catchments in the west of Ireland. This is no coincidence as these wetlands play a vital role in providing the ideal habitat conditions to support freshwater pearl mussel in adjacent rivers.

Wetlands have the effect of regulating river flow thereby helping to maintain optimal flow conditions even in extreme flood and drought events. In addition, wetland areas alongside river channels provide an important food supply to juvenile mussels. These juveniles are particularly vulnerable and this food source helps to ensure their survival to adulthood.

Drained and modified wetlands cease to provide both these functions. This is likely to partly explain the decline in mussel populations throughout much of the country. Because water quality reflects land use in the catchment, pearl mussel conservation efforts need to extend beyond the river channel and focus on maintaining and restoring wetland habitats at the catchment level. 

The Pearl Mussel Programme (PMP) recognises the value of these habitats and rewards farmers through a results-based approach: the higher the quality of the wetland, the higher their payment. In order to improve wetland quality, the PMP provides farmers with a budget for supporting actions, to incentivise wetland restoration and maintenance. Drain blocking is one of the measures we are funding through the supporting actions in the programme.

One of our pilot farmers, James Forrest, in the Glaskeelan catchment in Donegal has a 9 hectare peatland plot, which had been used for peat extraction and grazing. As with most turbary plots, there were extensive drains throughout. This resulted in a low habitat score for this plot, and therefore low habitat quality payment. However, we discussed various options with James for increasing his score and future payments. 

Initially, James was hesitant about blocking any drains as he had the impression that it would end up completely flooding the plot. Following discussion we felt that the best thing would be to bring James to a site where drain blocking, similar to what we were proposing for his plot, had been completed so he could see what was involved and how the bog looked after the works had been completed.

We took James and a group of interested farmers to Dungonnell blanket bog restoration project in Antrim to see the outcome of drain blocking on a peatland area. This work has been carried out by Northern Irish Water in partnership with RSPB, NIEA and MFFP. As the work had been carried out 5 years ago we got to see a great example of how a peatland recovers following drain blocking.

The trip clinched the deal and James decided he was comfortable with carrying out drain blocking on approximately 1.5km of drains within the plot.  In mid-October 2019 we installed 80 peat dams throughout the plot, using a wide-tracked excavator with James supervising the work (see images below). The installation of peat dams was 100% funded by the PMP.

We revisited the site a month later and were delighted with the results from the drain blocking. Although all drains on the plot have been blocked, the water is retained in the drains and very little other surface water is apparent (see images below). The site is still used to graze sheep, with a further advantage being that sheep now use the peat dams as crossing points, making the plot safer for them. James is also pleased with the works and is looking forward to seeing how the work carried out will improve his score on the plot.

PMP would like to thank James Forrest for taking the brave step, which might seem counterintuitive to many. The works will allow him to continue his farming practices, increase his PMP payments, and assist in the conservation of wetlands and of course the freshwater pearl mussel. A win win situation for all.


PMP Drain blocking works

Supervising the installing peat dams in drained blanket bog.

PMP Drain blocking before after

Appearance of initial drain and drain with peat dams one month after completion of works.

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PMP - Priority Commonage Lands 2020

PMP Proiority Commonages 2020

PMP have updated the online map of Priority Commonage lands within the eight catchments included in the Pearl Mussel Programme in 2020. The map allows farmers check the extent of commonage lands within each catchment and see the priority commonage areas selected for the Pearl Mussel Programme. We hope as many farmers as possible in the new priority commonage areas will join the scheme by by completing and returning your Expression of Interest Form (PMPF1) which you can download from our website.

You can view the map and see the list of priority commonage areas on our website at (see under Eligible Areas). A report on the new 2020 Priority Commonage areas is available under the Farmer Resources section of the website.

The area of commonage in the PMP will now increase from 5,000ha to 12,500ha (ca 90% % of all commonage lands in the eight catchments).

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Pearl Mussel Project now accepting Expressions of Interest

The PMP would like to remind all farmers interested in joining the Pearl Mussel Programme in 2020, that the closing date for receipt of Expression of Interest Form is the 29th February 2020. 

So don’t delay and register your interest in joining the scheme by completing and returning your Expression of Interest Form (PMPF1) which you can download from our website at:

All farmers with land within the relevant catchments are eligible to apply to join the Programme. A map showing the catchment areas is available to view here:

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© Pearl Mussel Project Ltd 2018