FRESHWATER PEARL MUSSEL
The freshwater pearl mussel is one of UK’s most threatened species, Scotland holds almost half the global population for the species. It is a fully protected invertebrate species under Schedule 5 of The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended).
Freshwater pearl mussel is a wildlife crime priority, as illegal pearl fishing is decimating populations.It is an offence to intentionally or recklessly:
kill, injure or take a wild animal
damage, destroy or obstruct access to any structure or place which such an animal uses for shelter or protection
disturb such an animal when it is occupying a structure or place for shelter or protection
It is also an offence to:
possess or control a living or dead Schedule 5 invertebrate
sell, offer for sale, or possess or transport for the purpose of sale any living or dead Schedule 5 invertebrate (or any such derivatives)
It is illegal to:
possess freshwater pearl mussels or pearls collected since 1998 – when the law was changed to give the species further protection
sell, or advertise for sale, Scottish freshwater pearl mussels or their pearls unless done so under licence from Scottish Natural Heritage
Knowingly causing or permitting any of the above acts to be carried out is also an offence.
Surveys for freshwater pearl mussels can be carried out at any time of year, however the optimal timings is between March and September.
You should apply to SNH for a licence if you wish to survey for freshwater pearl mussels by:
carefully walking stretches of river with a clear-bottomed bucket to look for animals on the river bed
gently lifting individuals from the river bed and measuring them to work out their rough age, to get a better idea of a population’s size and health
Licences are only issued to experienced and suitably trained individuals.
License activities for social, economic or environmental reasons (including development) that might affect freshwater pearl mussels may also be issued, as long as:
the licensed activity will contribute to significant social, economic or environmental benefit
there is no satisfactory alternative