Concerns over possible spread of Pacific Salmon in Ireland

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Galway Daily news Concern over presence of Pacific Pink Salmon in Irish waters

Inland Fisheries Ireland has expressed serious concerns that Pacific Pink Salmon may spread in Irish rivers, potentially harming their Atlantic counterparts.

The IFI is calling on anglers to be on the lookout for any Pacific Salmon, and report any they find in Ireland’s river systems.

The worry is that if they do establish themselves in Irish waterways, they could negatively impact on native species such as Atlantic Salmon, and Sea Trout.

Also known as humpback salmon, pink salmon are a migratory species native to river systems in the northern Pacific Ocean, and nearby regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic Ocean.

Although a single specimen was first recorded in Ireland in 1973, until 2017 individuals had rarely been encountered here.

Since 2017, the fish has been increasingly detected in unprecedented numbers in river systems and coastal areas of the North Atlantic, including Ireland, albeit at relatively low levels here to date.

However, at a recent meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organisation (NASCO), concerns were raised about an explosion in their numbers in the northernmost Norwegian rivers last year.

Francis O’Donnell CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland said, “We are appealing to anglers and the general public to remain vigilant and report the presence of any Pacific pink salmon encountered in Irish river systems.”

“The threat of pink salmon means that our already critically endangered Atlantic salmon are on the verge of a very serious ecological crisis.”

“The species is already under threat from declining water quality, loss of habitat, and the impacts of sea lice and salmon farm escapes on native stocks.”

“We will have to consider robust mitigation measures that may prove costly and labour intensive.”

As pink salmon predominantly have a two-year lifecycle, there is potential for the species to reappear in Irish rivers again in 2023 and every second so called ‘odd’ year thereafter.

However, they can also turn up in ‘even’ years and a single specimen was reported in the River Suir in 2018.

Dr Cathal Gallagher, Head of Research and Development at IFI, said that the growth of the their numbers in Norway last year, and sightings in Ireland in recent years, are of great concern.

“The presence of large numbers of pink salmon in Irish rivers could negatively impact some of our native species such as Atlantic salmon and sea trout as well as estuarine and coastal marine fish species and their associated ecosystems.”

He warned that, despite limited information at the moment, the climate and environmental conditions in Ireland are potentially suitable for them to get a foothold in our rivers.

IFI is appealing for anglers to report catches of Pacific Pink Salmon to their 24-hour confidential hotline number – 0818 34 74 24 or 0818 FISH 24, and follow the advice given.