Crack down on illegal pearl fishing – Fishfarmer Magazine

Crack down on illegal pearl fishing25 May, 2010 –

AN operation by wildlife crime officers has been launched to crack down on the illegal destruction of Scotland’s freshwater pearl mussels.

A survey by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has shown that around 75 per cent of the country’s pearl mussel sites have been damaged by criminals.

Criminal acts ranged from illegal pearl fishing to unauthorised river works resulting in the destruction of whole pearl mussel populations.

The police and SNH have now launched ‘Operation Caesar’ which is looking for the public’s help in identifying and reporting any suspicious activity to police.

Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said: “It is clear that the pearl mussel continues to suffer from indiscriminate and illegal ransacking by determined criminals. It is a UK wildlife crime priority and SNH has been tasked with co-ordinating action to try and halt this decline. This work will continue despite these setbacks.

“The Scottish Government is committed to protecting all our native species and to cracking down on the criminals with the help of SNH, the police and PAW Scotland.”

Freshwater pearl mussels are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and crimes against them carry the possibility of prison sentences.

Routine monitoring by SNH during 2008-09 covered nine Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), specially designated to conserve pearl mussels.

In one river system in the west Highlands, one of the largest pearl mussel beds of at least 600 animals was found to have disappeared since the previous monitoring visit five years earlier, with no explanation other than destructive pearl fishing.

Scotland has a total of 21 designated sites for pearl mussels with Scottish rivers holding around half of the world’s population of the species.

Promotion of wildlife conservation law and its enforcement is supported by the Scottish Government through the Partnership for Action Against Wildlife Crime – PAW Scotland.