Extinction for Scotland’s Jewels

This is really sad, about something I didn’t even knew existed, from the i newspaper:

Plucked from the bed of a river in Aberdeenshire, the best freshwater pearls in Scotland were once so prized they were used to adorn the country’s crown jewels. But Holyrood’s official conservation agency has now concluded that the rare mussels which produced them have all but died out.  A combination of overfishing, climate change and pollution has meant the river Ythan is “to all intents and purposes dead” as a source of freshwater pearl mussels, conservationists at Scottish National Heritage (SNH) concluded. According to newly published research by SNH, freshwater pearl mussels are now totally absent from 11 Scottish rivers where they were previously recorded. The species is one of he UK’s rarest freshwater molluscs, and populations are declining nationwide despite efforts to encourage them to breed. …The Kellie Pearl, believd to be the largest freshwater pearl ever discovered in Scotland, was found in a tributary of the River Ythan and is thought to have been incorporated into the country’s ancient crown alongside other smaller jewels. Known as the Honours of Scotland the jewels include the crown a sword ad a sceptre which all date from the 15th and 16th centuries They were first used to crown the infant Mary Queen of Scots in 1543, and were then at the coronations of James VI in 1567, Charles I in 1633 and Charles II in 1651. Following the 1709 Treaty of Union with England the Honours were “lost” for more than 100 years until the writer Sir Walter Scott became sure they were hidden in Edinburgh Castle. In 1818 he was proved right, and they are now safely stored in the castle and viewed by more than a million visitors a year. “The bearing of pearls for jewellery is part of our cultural history and it’s an enormous shame that the species in the River Ythan is consigned to history,” said Iain Sime, SNH’s freshwater and wetlands adviser. “The river has suffered in the past from considerable pollution because it’s quite intensively managed for agriculture. … Fishing for pearl mussels is illegal in Scotland, but SNH is aware of several crime “hotspots” and is working with police to catch the culprits. Freshwater pearl mussels are similar in shape to common marine mussels, but are larger and cn live for more than 100 years.

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