A project involving 50 farmers has been launched in south Kerry to conserve the endangered pearl mussel.
Minister of state Jimmy Deenihan, who launched KerryLife in Glencar, said it is worth €3.8m to the local economy.
The fundamental aim of the demonstration project, which will last until 2019, is to support two local communities to restore populations of the critically endangered freshwater pearl mussel in the area.
KerryLife will work closely with local communities and stakeholders in the farming and forestry sectors to deliver sustainable land use management for the project, which is co-funded by the European Union.
This approach will ensure local knowledge is central to development and selection of conservation measures to support the mussel.
A team of four people, based in the Glencar Community Centre, been working full-time on the project since the beginning of the year.
Farm and forest management plans are presently under preparation and their implementation will start later.
KerryLife is a partnership project co-ordinated by the Department of Arts, Heritage, and the Gaeltacht; the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine; Forest Service, Coillte; Teagasc; Pobal; and South Kerry Development Partnership.
Mr Deenihan said that the natural environment is critical to our quality of life “and we want to develop in a sustainable way, ensuring that we take the necessary steps to protect our natural habitats”.
He thanked the farmers, landowners, schools, and communities of the Blackwater and Glencar areas for their support and co-operation and the project team for their work.
The conservation status of the freshwater pearl mussel species has, over the years, declined due to land mismanagement, with diffuse sediment and nutrient losses being the main causes.
There is an urgent need to reverse this decline and improve the conservation of the mussels in rivers.
The project in south Kerry seeks to develop land use management techniques and practices for farmers and forest-owners in freshwater pearl mussel catchments.
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