Dáil Éireann - Volume 596 - 26 January, 2005
Written Answers. - Wildlife Protection.
Mr. Perry Mr. Perry
1306. Mr. Perry asked the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government the measures he plans to take to preserve the Margaritifera mussel, which is on the verge of extinction here according to a report by the Heritage Council. [34182/04]
Mr. Roche Mr. Roche
Mr. Roche: The freshwater pearl mussel, Margaritifera, is a protected species under the Wildlife Acts 1976 and 2000. Designation of special areas of conservation, or SACs, for margaritifera is also required by the EU Habitats Directive. Ireland has proposed 21 sites as candidate SACs for two sub-species of margaritifera. My Department commenced monitoring four margaritifera SACs last year and will be carrying out surveys of an additional five margaritifera SACs this year. During 2005 my Department will initiate intensive research on further developing the scientific basis for draft margaritifera water quality standards, on which work was initiated last year.
In working on the conservation of margaritifera, my Department is assisted by the expertise of an experienced scientist, retained on contract to advise on the conservation and restoration of the species. Recent work undertaken for my Department has demonstrated that there is a serious problem with the conservation status of our margaritifera populations. This applies to both of the sub-species known to exist in Ireland, margaritifera margaritifera, which is relatively widespread and margaritifera durrovensis, found only in part of the River Nore.
Particular attention was drawn to the species last summer, when there was an algal bloom in the Owenriff River in County Galway, and the margaritifera population there was found to have been severely affected. My Department is participating in a working group set up to investigate possible causes of the algal bloom in the Owenriff, and to determine best management practice in the Owenriff catchment. The group consists of representatives from the National Parks and Wildlife Service of my Department, the Forest  Service, the Western Regional Fisheries Board, Galway County Council, which is the lead local authority for the western river basin district board, and from Coillte Teoranta. Remedies for all catchment activities perceived as being problematic will be explored with the appropriate planning authority, Galway County Council. In the medium term all these issues will be addressed in conjunction with the western river basin district in the context of the river basin management plan.
My Department will adapt approaches developed in the Owenriff for wider implementation in margaritifera catchments mainly in the context of the river basin management plans required under the water framework directive. This will be on the basis that only catchment wide measures will achieve the necessary controls on excessive situation and nutrient enrichment, which are causing the decline of margaritifera in Ireland and in Europe. River basin authorities have been informed of the location and conservation status of margaritifera populations. Populations identified as of particular concern will require intensive monitoring and investigation and the development of a programme of measures to ensure that the water quality requirements of margaritifera are met.
In relation to margaritifera durrovensis in the river Nore, my Department will begin a series of programmes aimed at developing strategies to stabilise the population of this critically endangered sub-species. This will consist of the development of a species action plan, a fluvial audit of the Nore, a translocation programme, development of rehabilitation measures and the establishment of a captive breeding programme. In addition my Department will ensure that the water quality requirements of this species are met by the river basin management plan.
Dáil Éireann 596 Written Answers. Wildlife Protection.