Reaching high ecological status on the River Irt


Fresh Water Pearl Mussels (FWPM) require close to pristine conditions in terms of water quality, flow and habitat – equivalent to ‘high ecological status’ under the Water Framework Directive (WFD).

There are several rivers nationwide that hold small numbers of FWPM, however almost all populations have declined dramatically in recent decades with no signs of recent recruitment.  The River Irt in Cumbria is regarded as having immediate potential for recovery to this standard, however without Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) designation or the adoption of high-status objectives, the drivers are not there to secure financial or time resources to facilitate the long-term conservation work required.

What we are doing:

The River Irt has been selected as a trial approach for conservation of the FWPM, through setting WFD high status objectives.

We will produce a detailed scoping and planning report that looks at the requirements needed to achieve high status for the elements selected and develop a reasoned and realistic set of measures for achieving it.  This will complement previous and current conservation work and research on the river.

Who else is involved?

Environment Agency, West Cumbria Rivers Trust, and Freshwater Biological Association.

Project location:


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