The North York Moors’ threatened population of freshwater pearl mussels has been thrown a lifeline. The national park authority has been given £70,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and landfill taxes to improve the River Esk above Glaisdale.

Some of the money will be used to help farmers fence off river banks and provide alternative stock watering facilities to improve the quality of the river, which is home to the last remaining pearl mussels in the North York Moors, and to improve conditions for the pearl mussels to breed.

Fraser Hugill, Senior Farm Conservation Officer, at the national park authority, warned: “The pearl mussels in the River Esk are an ageing population and unless we can improve conditions they will become extinct. ”

In September, the Environment Agency moved a number of the River Esk’s pearl mussels to a captive breeding programme in the Lake District. It is hoped that these, plus any juveniles produced, will be re-introduced to the Esk in around five years time once conditions have improved.

Farmers and landowners upstream of Glaisdale who want to take part should contact Fraser Hugill by 15 November on 01439 770657 or email f.hugill@northyorkmoors-npa.gov.uk

The mussels, which can live for over 100 years, lie buried or partly buried in coarse sand and fine gravel in clean, fast-flowing and unpolluted rivers and streams.

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