The official press launch took place recently, in Co. Limerick (Ireland) of MulkearLIFE, a new €1.75 million European Commission co-funded LIFE Nature project working on the restoration of the Lower Shannon special area of conservation (Mulkear River catchment) for the Atlantic salmon (salmo salar), European otter (lutra lutra) and sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus).

MulkearLIFE (LIFE07 NAT/IRL/000342) is one of the first and most important integrated catchment management projects in Ireland: The Mulkear, together with its principal tributaries (Dead, Bilboa and Newport rivers) drains a catchment area of approximately 650 km² spanning the counties of Limerick and Tipperary. The Mulkear is one of the top five salmon rivers in Ireland when its relative size is considered, producing a significant annual salmon run. It also holds substantial populations of sea lamprey and otter are known to be widespread. However, recent evidence suggests numbers of these three priority species (i.e. listed in Annex II of the Habitats Directive) are in decline.

The main aim of the project is to restore, through in-stream rehabilitation works, degraded habitats along stretches of the Mulkear and its principal tributaries. This work, while beneficial to many species, will be of key importance in supporting stocks and protecting the habitats of the targeted species,

The project is being coordinated by the Shannon Regional Fisheries Board, the project beneficiary, working in partnership with the Office of Public Works and Limerick County Council and other stakeholders to implement the project over the next four years.

Speaking at the launch, Martin Territt, Director of the Commission Representation in Ireland, said: "One of the biggest problems affecting our environment is the destruction of eco-systems by invasive species and loss of habitat. The actions being undertaken by the MulkearLIFE team, its partners and the local community should not only help to restore the natural balance in one of the Shannon's most important tributaries, but it should also become a model for restoring river catchments throughout Europe to their natural state."

For more information see the project website.