Conservationists in bid to save River Clun pearl mussels

Conservation work is under way in a Shropshire river to help protect pearl mussels.

The River Clun was once a haven for the protected species but colonies were depleted because of habitat changes and inadequate water quality.

Clean and fast-flowing rivers are needed and conservationists hope to improve the riverbank to keep pollutants out of the water.

Pearl mussels have been in British rivers since the end of the Ice Age.

They can live up to 150 years and grow to 14 cm. It has been illegal to take them from rivers since 1999.

'Depend upon oxygen'

The Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Beauty has been given grants to enable about 4,000m of fencing to be erected along parts of the river.

Keeping livestock away from the river and tree management helps prevent silt getting into the river and suffocating the species.

It is thought the Clun is home to the only large colony of freshwater pearl mussels in the Midlands with fewer than 2,000 there.

Mike Kelly, Shropshire Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, said: "The work will help stop sediment entering the river as pearl mussels depend upon the oxygen within the riverbed."

They are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act and poachers face a £5,000 fine per offence or six months in prison.

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