The Pearl Mussel Project is a pilot agri-environment programme that seeks to improve the quality of watercourses to benefit the endangered freshwater pearl mussel. It is locally adapted, results-based and focuses on the top eight freshwater pearl mussel catchments in Ireland.

Farmers will be rewarded for their environmental services whilst having the freedom and flexibility to farm. This will in turn improve the outcomes and long-term sustainability of agri-environment schemes for biodiversity, and for rural communities. It is hoped that this approach will form the basis for future schemes in these areas.

Peatland, grassland, and woodland habitats are used as result indicators. The higher the quality of these habitats, the higher the payment farmers receive. The quality of watercourses on the farm will also influence the final payment. This approach has the effect of creating a market for biodiversity, and provides an opportunity and incentive for farmers to manage their farm habitats to produce higher quality biodiversity.

The Programme, which has a budget of €10million, is being run by the Pearl Mussel Project Team, based in counties Kerry and Mayo. Support will be provided to farmers by their advisors, who will be trained in the Programme delivery. The Project Team will provide support to farmers and advisors.

The programme will run until December 2023.

Examples of other results based programmes that are currently running include; the Hen Harrier Project, Burren Programme, and Caomhnú Árann (follow on from Aran LIFE)

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Funding the project

The Pearl Mussel Project is an EIP (European Innovation Partnership) Locally Led Scheme. The Project is funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine as part of Ireland's Rural Development Programme 2014-2020.

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