Date lodged: 7 June 2018
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports of poaching of protected pearl mussels in Loch Assynt, and what plans it has to prevent such poaching taking place.
Answered by: Roseanna Cunningham 21 June 2018
Within the last two months there have been two reports of illegal pearl fishing incidents in the Assynt area. Both incidents were reported to Police Scotland and investigations are continuing. This is an important area for the conservation of freshwater pearl mussels, with a number of rivers designated for their internationally important populations and a significant number of other important populations. We are extremely disappointed by this persecution of this critically endangered species, which is extremely vulnerable to criminal damage and is a UK wildlife crime priority.
The rivers where both incidents took place are the subject of ‘Riverwatch’ schemes, launched by the ‘Pearls in Peril’ project and aimed at increasing awareness of the threat from illegal pearl fishing. The UK Priority Delivery Group for freshwater pearl mussels (which coordinates activity to combat wildlife crime affecting pearl mussels) has discussed these cases and planning is underway to highlight the continued threat from illegal activity across the Highlands in the media. This is planned for later this summer, alongside awareness-raising with ranger services. There are also river patrols in Highland region, led by Police Scotland with partner organisations, to deter and detect potential criminal activity.