McGrigor in parliamentary debate on freshwater pearl mussels

Jamie McGrigor emphasised the importance of Scotland’s endangered fresh water pearl mussels in the Scottish Parliament today. The Highlands & Islands MSP and the Scottish Conservative Environment Spokesman was speaking in a Member’s debate on the subject secured by his colleague Mary Scanlon MSP.

He said ‘In conducting research for today it was fascinating to learn more about the biology of this species, as well as its long history in Scotland. It is one of the longest living invertebrates in existence with a lifespan of 100 years or more; one specimen found in the 1990s in Estonia was 134 years old. And according to the verbal briefing we received today it is possible there are freshwater mussels in Russia which are over 200 years old. Look at all the history that has passed them by, let alone the water.

‘An adult mussel can filter 50 litres of water a day, an amazing volume given their size and something which is very important for water quality. In the past in Scottish rivers they were fished and some of the pearl fishermen were clever enough, using reversible callipers, to be able to open a mussel and check if there was a pearl and extract the pearl and close the mussel without significant damage; but these people were experts who wanted to make their livelihoods sustainable.

Modern day illegal cowboys just using pen-knifes just leave a trail of death and destruction and what has been there for literally hundreds of years can be destroyed by sheer ignorance.

‘As we have heard, despite now enjoying full legal protection, there are real concerns about the population numbers of what is a critically endangered species – indeed, by some estimates it is in the top 400 most endangered species on the whole planet.

‘Threats to the species come from illegal pearl fishing – an identified threat in 99% of rivers containing pearl mussels in Scotland-, habitat degradation or destruction, pollution and climate change.

‘…salmon and trout are the taxis that take them to their future living quarters’

‘The declining population in some areas of wild salmon and trout- an issue I have raised many times before- is also a very important factor as pearl mussels spend the early part of their life cycle developing harmlessly in the gills of salmon and trout. These are the spats, the future seed-corn. The salmon and trout are the taxis that take them to their future living quarters.

‘Decline in salmon and trout stocks is a particular concern in the west coast and northwest coast of my region of the Highlands & Islands. It is essential that the reasons for these declines are more fully investigated as it appears that east and north coast runs fare much better.

‘Protecting and enhancing our stocks of pearl mussels is therefore another reason why we need to better understand and respond to the declines in salmon and trout numbers- if we do not have salmon and trout in our rivers we simply won’t have pearl mussels either. It’s all the same ecosystem.

‘In terms of public tackling of the very serious destruction of pearl mussels in the search for the rare pearl found in 1% of pearl mussels, all of us in this Parliament can send out the very clear message that this is illegal and totally unacceptable. If people see any suspicious activity they should not hesitate to contact their local police station and ask for the wildlife crime officer.

‘If Scotland and other developed countries are to persuade less advanced nations on the need to conserve their endangered species, we must preserve- and be seen to be preserving- the rare species we are lucky enough to have on our doorstep.’

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12 Responses to McGrigor in parliamentary debate on freshwater pearl mussels

  1. In failing to protect wild salmon and sea trout populations (on which Fresh Water Pearl Mussels depend) from the scientifically well documented impacts of sea lice plumes from West Coast salmon farms, the Scottish Government and its agencies (SNH, SEPA and MS) are in breach of the Habitats Directive. Let’s hope the courts wake up to this and re-establish the rule of law before it is too late.

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    • db’s comment on Ewan Kennedy’s report on the approval of large seafarm developments outide Loch Melfort gives added doubt as to just what SEPA’s role is if it’s not policing the fish farmers.

      What on earth is going on? – how on earth can anyone pretend that Scotland is fit to govern itself if the national environmental protection agency is in reality turning a blind eye to such potentially damaging developments, and is there a parallel with the government’s handling of Trump’s development on the Aberdeen coast?

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  2. Thanks Alex – I too see it your way but was trying not to be prolix in my comment. You are quite right, the domestic courts need someone to bring a case which in most cases is prohibitively expensive / ruinously stressful for that someone, and the European courts sometimes require domestic courts to have been exhausted first. Direct complaints to the commission are an important safeguard, and one we are working on.

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  3. Newsie is probably awaiting the press release from Robb – before she breaks her ‘exclusive’ :)

    The two Mikey Boys Russel and Breslin have of course got their retaliation in first.

    Oooooph. Louise Gleen already stabbed in the chest a “traitor”.

    joking aside, what an unedifying spectacle from a ‘political party’ claiming to put the interests of Argyll and Scotland first.

    Shameful behaviour from these over-inflated egos who are treating the electorate with contempt.


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    • But just who is who here? Robb and his group cannot claim to be SNP if they have been suspended from the party. The problem lies with individuals who seem to have completely lost the plot rather than the SNP and certainly not the SNP rank and file who will be utterly aghast at these developments. I’ll wait until the dust settles a bit before making any further comment but at the moment “betrayal” doesn’t seem over-strong.

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  4. The piece I find most distasteful is the SNP HQ in Edinburgh dictating who may and may not form a coalition. This is Local Government – not centrally-controlled-remote-control-of-regional-service-delivery-agencies.

    SNP HQ in Edinburgh has no right to dictate the formation of Argyll & Bute Council.

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    • Mairi,
      You are wrong. They do have the right –all parties are the same.
      What Robb, McCuish and Semple and ANO, did not have the right to do was to enter negotiation without discussing with their “fellow snp councillors” and deceive the snp membership.
      They would then have to seek approval from HQ –If not given then you do not proceed.If ok’d then you go ahead. You sign as a candidate and as a councillor certain obligations.
      Either way it looks like he had already agreed a pact with the tories, agreed who would get the promoted posts (forgot to tell others that they were expendable!)I am sure there are many individuals reexaming their friendship with Robb etc. I am still bemused by McCuish going along with this–Explanation folk from Oban?
      It looks that in fact certain councillors joined as members of the snp to get elected and are now showing their “true colours”.
      As a snp supporter however bad this has been the positive is that they have now been exposed and will no longer be allowed into the party. The air is now a little purer.

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  5. Show me where, in the Local Government Act or similar document, it says that political party HQs can dictate the formation of local coalitions? That power is NOT granted to ANY party. Parties themselves may draw up rules and protocols. But that is not the same thing.

    There are coalitions elsewhere that include SNP and Tories eg Dumfries and Galloway. Coalitions are a fact of life. Local politicians should know better what will be sustainable and compatible than any central HQ whose pronouncements and rules are more often based on national issues than local needs.

    And not all parties are the same – I think that only the the SNP suspends members in such circumstances.

    These comments are general by the way – I make no comment on the merits of this particular coalition.

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