The presence of farmed salmon in a river in Connemara home to wild salmon is a “serious cause for concern” Inland Fisheries Ireland has said.
IFI recovered farmed salmon from the Kylemore River in Letterfrack, also know as the Dawros River after being alerted to their presence by local anglers.
The anglers had captured fish with poorly formed fins and other distinguishing features that are associated with farmed salmon.
These recovered fish were tested by scientists from IFI, and were confirmed to be of ‘aquaculture origin’.
The discovery is a serious cause for concern for Inland Fisheries Ireland, according to its Head of Operations, Dr Greg Forde.
“The Dawros Rivers have been designated a special area for conservation for wild Atlantic salmon and we are seriously concerned about the impact that farmed salmon could have on this native species.”
“For example, farmed salmon could potentially transfer disease or could interbreed with the indigenous wild salmon population of this river.”
He also raised concerns about how they escaped fish could impact on the “genetically unique” stock in each river come spawning season in December.
“Early indications are that the farmed salmon, due to their size and development, could be capable of spawning this winter and interbreeding with wild fish thereby weakening the natural genetic pool unique to the Dawros River.”
Inland Fisheries Ireland’s investigations are on-going to determine the source of the escape. The state agency has notified the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine, which is responsible for the issuing of aquaculture licences.
In an appeal to owners and operators of fish farms around the country, Dr. Forde said that it is essential that aquaculture businesses are secure, and without escapes to the wild, in order to preserve wild fish stocks, now and for future generations.
To report any sightings of escaped farmed fish, anglers and members of the public are encouraged to call Inland Fisheries Ireland’s confidential hotline number on 1890 34 74 24, which is open 24 hours a day.