Mussels chances improve – Fishfarmer Magazine

Mussels chances improve 19 May, 2010 –

NEWLY discovered colonies of an endangered mussel, the depressed river mussel, suggest better chances of survival and point to healthier rivers and streams in Kent, according to the Environment Agency.

The depressed river mussel, so called because it has a “squashed” appearance compared to other types of mussel, is listed as a species of national conservation importance and appears on the priority species list of the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

The existence of these mussels is threatened by pollution, collectors and non-native invasive species, such as zebra mussels and the Asian clam. Threats to this endangered native species are being highlighted as this is the United Nations’ International Year of Biodiversity 2010.  However, during a recent survey for the Environment Agency, depressed river mussels were found at a number of locations in the Great Stour and the Little Stour

The recently discovered colonies are a good sign for the creatures’ survival, but they remain vulnerable to competition by foreign species and collectors removing them from their natural environment.

Biodiversity technical specialist Tom Reid said: “These animals need very special conditions in which to thrive. People should not move them as they are unlikely to survive, even in clean ponds.

“The good news is that the presence of the mussels does not conflict with our ongoing flood control measures. Although the river must not be dredged when the mussels are hibernating, this activity can still take place at other times in the year, so it is very much a case of variation, rather than reduction in flood prevention activity.

“There have been great improvements over the past 20 years with reliable supplies of water, cleaner rivers and wildlife, such as the depressed river mussel, making a comeback in our rivers. This is good news, but much more needs to be done.

“We want to work with a wide range of partners including water companies, farmers, industry, landowners and members of the public. We are working on the Water Framework Directive to build on these improvements and tackle the huge challenges that still remain.”