News

See all the latest news about the Pearl Mussel Project. Remember you can also check out the latest news on our Facebook page (links opposite).

New PMP SW Catchment Officer Appointed

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The Pearl Mussel Project are delighted to welcome our new catchment officer Stephen O'Shea to the team working on the project to protect freshwater pearl mussels in Ireland. 

Stephen has worked as an agri-environmental consultant since 2015. He has designed GLAS plans, nutrient management plans and commonage plans in the south Kerry region since the commencement of the GLAS agri-environmental schemes in 2015. He has lead GLAS farmer training programmes both in the classroom and in the field. Stephen has also conducted numerous habitat surveys on farms highlighting both pristine habitats and the environmental stresses that threaten these. He has worked directly on the Kerry Life Project recording the issues that negatively impact the Freshwater Pearl Mussel habitats. He has conducted research into the sedimentation processes of river bed habitats. Stephen is also an active upland sheep farmer; farming the family farm near the Caragh River in Glenbeigh.

Stephen is taking over the post formerly held by Tara Challoner, and will be working with farmers in the southern catchments in Cork and Kerry out of our Kenmare office. 

You can email Stephen at stephen@pmproject.ie

How PMP farm supporting actions help mussels and wetlands – a thought for World Wetlands Day

Wetland habitats, in particular blanket bog and associated seepage zones, are common throughout the most important freshwater pearl mussel catchments in the west of Ireland. This is no coincidence as these wetlands play a vital role in providing the ideal habitat conditions to support freshwater pearl mussel in adjacent rivers.

Wetlands have the effect of regulating river flow thereby helping to maintain optimal flow conditions even in extreme flood and drought events. In addition, wetland areas alongside river channels provide an important food supply to juvenile mussels. These juveniles are particularly vulnerable and this food source helps to ensure their survival to adulthood.

Drained and modified wetlands cease to provide both these functions. This is likely to partly explain the decline in mussel populations throughout much of the country. Because water quality reflects land use in the catchment, pearl mussel conservation efforts need to extend beyond the river channel and focus on maintaining and restoring wetland habitats at the catchment level. 

The Pearl Mussel Programme (PMP) recognises the value of these habitats and rewards farmers through a results-based approach: the higher the quality of the wetland, the higher their payment. In order to improve wetland quality, the PMP provides farmers with a budget for supporting actions, to incentivise wetland restoration and maintenance. Drain blocking is one of the measures we are funding through the supporting actions in the programme.

One of our pilot farmers, James Forrest, in the Glaskeelan catchment in Donegal has a 9 hectare peatland plot, which had been used for peat extraction and grazing. As with most turbary plots, there were extensive drains throughout. This resulted in a low habitat score for this plot, and therefore low habitat quality payment. However, we discussed various options with James for increasing his score and future payments. 

Initially, James was hesitant about blocking any drains as he had the impression that it would end up completely flooding the plot. Following discussion we felt that the best thing would be to bring James to a site where drain blocking, similar to what we were proposing for his plot, had been completed so he could see what was involved and how the bog looked after the works had been completed.

We took James and a group of interested farmers to Dungonnell blanket bog restoration project in Antrim to see the outcome of drain blocking on a peatland area. This work has been carried out by Northern Irish Water in partnership with RSPB, NIEA and MFFP. As the work had been carried out 5 years ago we got to see a great example of how a peatland recovers following drain blocking.

The trip clinched the deal and James decided he was comfortable with carrying out drain blocking on approximately 1.5km of drains within the plot.  In mid-October 2019 we installed 80 peat dams throughout the plot, using a wide-tracked excavator with James supervising the work (see images below). The installation of peat dams was 100% funded by the PMP.

We revisited the site a month later and were delighted with the results from the drain blocking. Although all drains on the plot have been blocked, the water is retained in the drains and very little other surface water is apparent (see images below). The site is still used to graze sheep, with a further advantage being that sheep now use the peat dams as crossing points, making the plot safer for them. James is also pleased with the works and is looking forward to seeing how the work carried out will improve his score on the plot.

PMP would like to thank James Forrest for taking the brave step, which might seem counterintuitive to many. The works will allow him to continue his farming practices, increase his PMP payments, and assist in the conservation of wetlands and of course the freshwater pearl mussel. A win win situation for all.

 

PMP Drain blocking works

Supervising the installing peat dams in drained blanket bog.

PMP Drain blocking before after


Appearance of initial drain and drain with peat dams one month after completion of works.


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PMP - Priority Commonage Lands 2020

PMP Proiority Commonages 2020

PMP have updated the online map of Priority Commonage lands within the eight catchments included in the Pearl Mussel Programme in 2020. The map allows farmers check the extent of commonage lands within each catchment and see the priority commonage areas selected for the Pearl Mussel Programme. We hope as many farmers as possible in the new priority commonage areas will join the scheme by by completing and returning your Expression of Interest Form (PMPF1) which you can download from our website.

You can view the map and see the list of priority commonage areas on our website at www.pmproject.ie (see under Eligible Areas). A report on the new 2020 Priority Commonage areas is available under the Farmer Resources section of the website.

The area of commonage in the PMP will now increase from 5,000ha to 12,500ha (ca 90% % of all commonage lands in the eight catchments).

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Pearl Mussel Project now accepting Expressions of Interest

The PMP would like to remind all farmers interested in joining the Pearl Mussel Programme in 2020, that the closing date for receipt of Expression of Interest Form is the 29th February 2020. 

So don’t delay and register your interest in joining the scheme by completing and returning your Expression of Interest Form (PMPF1) which you can download from our website at: 

http://www.pearlmusselproject.ie/resources/publications.html

All farmers with land within the relevant catchments are eligible to apply to join the Programme. A map showing the catchment areas is available to view here: https://www.pearlmusselproject.ie/eligible-areas/eligible-areas-map.html

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie @DeptAgriFoodMarine #EPACatchments #teagasc #watersandcommunities #IrishFarmersJournal  #agriculture @IrishFarmersAssociation #Agriland @ICSAIreland @kenmarenews @southkerryadvertiser @radiokerry #INHFA

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Pearl Mussel Programme Payments

PMP 2019 Payments

We are currently issuing our first annual payments to farmers under our results-based programme. In all, over 300 of our participant farmers will receive their payments over the next few weeks, with in excess of €600,000 being paid out to farmers in our catchment areas. For the first time these farmers are receiving a result-based payment that reflects the environmental outputs of their land, and in particular their contribution towards maintaining freshwater pearl mussel and their pristine river habitat.

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.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie @DeptAgriFoodMarine #EPACatchments #teagasc #watersandcommunities #IrishFarmersJournal  #agriculture @IrishFarmersAssociation #Agriland

PMP completes data management system to administer programme

PMP Database Image

The PMP have completed the design and construction of a programme data management system (in a Geographic Information System (GIS) database and a PMP database) to manage the large amounts of digital information needed to run the results based Pearl Mussel Programme. 

The GIS has been operational for some time and includes the online Eligible Areas and Commonage Areas maps on our website, and the farm advisor habitat quality survey system. The PMP database has been developed in phases since the start of the programme to record participants, their farm plot information, training and contract status, and produce a farm plan, annual payment and results plan and an annual works plan for each participant.

This mundane behind the scenes work allows the programme to collect and store information on the 342 participant farmers that have joined the programme to date, together with data on the 2000 plots (fields) covering 21,400ha of lands which are currently within the programme. 

Most importantly for participants, the programme data management system allows PMP to calculate farm payments based on the habitat quality on their lands. It is a one of the key requirements for the administration of the PMP results based programme.

#pearlmusselproject #musselrivers #EIPagri #RuralNetwork @agriculture_ie

Job Opportunity - Catchment Officer

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Catchment Officer (Agri-environmental)

Employer: The Pearl Mussel Project Limited

Location: Kenmare, County Kerry

Job Type: 4 Year fixed term contract, full time

Salary: €35,000 / annum (excl. travel expenses)

Closing date: Tuesday 3rd December 2019

Role / Position: The Pearl Mussel Project is a locally led European Innovation Partnership (EIP) jointly funded by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which has developed a voluntary results-based agri-environmental scheme for farmers within eight priority catchments. The overall aim of the programme is to promote farm management tailored to maintaining and improving the local environment with a view to securing the long term conservation of freshwater pearl mussel (Margaritifera margaritifera) in Ireland.

We are currently recruiting a catchment officer with an agri-environmental background for our southern (south Kerry and west Cork) area, based in the Kerry office (Kenmare). The successful applicant will work as a key member of the project team and will report to the Project Manager. The role will require the successful candidate to travel between the four catchments in south Kerry and west Cork, and to spend a high proportion of time out of the office.

Main duties and responsibilities

  •  Main point of contact between farmers and the project team;
  •  Continual liaison with the farming community in four of the project catchments;
  •  Provide agri-environmental advice and support to participant farmers during scheme;
  •  Liaise with and provide support to farm advisors working on the Programme as required;
  •  Contribute to the development of guidance documents and training material;
  •  Assist with delivery of training to farmers and farm advisors;
  •  Planning and conducting monitoring surveys and fieldwork;
  •  Organise and partake in outreach events such as school visits;
  •  Liaise and work closely with the western catchment officer and wider project team; and
  •  Prepare and contribute to reports when required.

Qualifications and experience required

The ideal candidate would have the following knowledge, experience, and attributes:

  •  A degree in agriculture, ecology, or related discipline;
  •  Minimum two years relevant work experience in the agricultural / environmental sectors;
  •  Knowledge and awareness of agri-environmental schemes such as REPS, GLAS, Hen Harrier Programme, Burren Programme, etc;
  •  Strong knowledge of farmland habitats (peatland & grassland) and their indicator species;
  •  Experience in the preparation and monitoring of farm plans;
  •  An ability to identify issues at a farm level that pose a threat to freshwater pearl mussel, and identify solutions which give due consideration to the environment and farm operations;
  •  Excellent communication skills;
  •  Self-motivated and have a proven ability to work under their own initiative;
  •  Have a positive, enthusiastic, pragmatic, solution driven, and flexible approach to work;
  •  A willingness to actively participate as part of a wider multidisciplinary team;
  •  An ability to manage their own workload, ensuring that work is carried out on schedule;
  •  A full clean driver’s licence;
  •  Good computer skills particularly in the use of Microsoft Office software;
  •  Knowledge and experience of results-based schemes would be an advantage; and
  •  Experience of using ESRI ArcGIS or other data management software would be an advantage.

How to apply:

Send cover letter, CV, and two referees by Tuesday 3rd December to:

Dr Patrick Crushell
Project Manager
The Pearl Mussel Project Ltd
Bell Height
Kenmare
County Kerry

Tel: 064 6642524
E-mail: patrick@pmproject.ie
Web: PearlMusselProject.ie

Suitable applicants will be short listed for interview during December with a view to the successful applicant commencing work in December 2019 or January 2020.

A year with the mussels

SAM 7524 - Version 2

 Mary McAndrew, PMP West and North West Catchment Officer gives us an insight into her first year on the job working with participant farmers in the programme.

“What a hectic first year it turned out to be in my role as catchment officer. I am really enjoying the work and cannot believe its been a year already!

When I started in 2018, one of my first jobs was presenting the programme to farmers in the catchments and getting feedback from them on what they felt would be important to include in the programme. It was also the first opportunity for farmers to meet a member of the PMP team.

Together with the rest of the PMP team we spent the winter designing the programme and went back to the catchments for discussion in February with farmers. The enthusiasm and positivity from the farmers has been one of the things that has stood out the most for me this year.

I have also been involved in training farm advisors who have been working on the project and providing them with support as they were out in the field scoring farms this summer. We also held a series of farmer training events over the summer and I really enjoyed meeting the farmers we will be working with over the coming years.

Dawros Farmer Particp Training Aug 2019b

Most of my summer was spent out in the catchments in Donegal, Connemara and Mayo scoring farms in the programme. We are lucky to be working in some of the most scenic parts of the country.

I loved the field work as it was something completely different to what I’m used to doing. Apart, that is, from the time I finished surveying a farm only to find I no longer had my keys, cue retracing my steps in a panic, thankfully to find them inside the gate of the field I had started in! Or the time two overly friendly heifers decided to pin me in the corner of a field and I had to ring the farmer to be rescued (I’m still living that one down at home, my dad says if it’s going to happen anyone it would have to be me !!).

I have really enjoyed my time getting to know the farmers in my catchments and building up a relationship with them all, so they know they can contact me at any stage to chat about the programme.

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The programme also gave me new challenges and opportunities, including being interviewed for Connemara radio, leading a walk during the Connemara Green Week, appearing in Teagasc’s Todays Farm, getting to travel to different events hosted by other EIPS, attending farm shows and of course meeting Minister Creed at the launch of the PMP programme earlier this year.

Coming from a farming background, its so great to see that the minister and his department recognises the benefit of locally led projects and the willingness to invest in farmers at a local level and drive this process forward.

Overall its been a really busy and rewarding first year in the job. I am loving every minute of it and am looking forward to spending more time on the ground in the catchments meeting the farmers in the coming months to helping with farm measures on their farms to improve conditions for our mussels.”


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PMP attend Burren Winterage School

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PMP enjoyed a beautiful day at the #BurrenWinterage school with a number of our Pearl Mussel Project participant farmers. We learned about the very successful Burren Programme, where results of farming for nature are clear to see. 

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Pearl Mussel Walk Connemara Green Festival

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The Pearl Mussel Walk held as part of the Connemara Green Festival last Friday and led by PMPs Mary McAndrew was a great success. The group found a number of pearl mussel shells along the river banks (one of which we dated as potentially 70/80 years old). Delighted to have had the opportunity to present our progress on the project so far to the community. Huge thanks to Marie Louise Heffernan and the festival committee for inviting us to participate in the event.

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© Pearl Mussel Project Ltd 2018