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Public and anglers urged to report sightings of 'rare' non-native salmon in Irish waters

They first appeared in Ireland in ‘unprecedented numbers’ in 2017 with the IFI now warning they could threaten native species.

File photo of pink salmon caught in 2017.
File photo of pink salmon caught in 2017.
Image: fisheriesireland.ie

A RARE SPECIES of salmon has returned to Irish waters after first appearing here in “unprecedented numbers” in 2017, according to Inland Fisheries Ireland.

The state agency, which is responsible for conservation and management of inland fisheries resources, has called on the anglers and members of the public to report sightings of Pacific pink salmon. 

In 2017, the non-native fish species unexpectedly appeared in unprecedented numbers in multiple river systems in the south-west, west and north-west of the country.

As they only have a two-year life cycle, numbers of the species have since fallen, but sightings of them returning to Irish rivers have sparked concern that they might negatively impact some of the native Irish species swimming in Irish water.

“The potential presence of pink salmon in Irish rivers again is of ongoing concern to Inland Fisheries Ireland, as its presence in large numbers may negatively impact some of Ireland’s native species,” Dr Cathal Gallagher, head of research and development at IFI said.

Along with the impact it has on Ireland’s native fish species, such as Atlantic salmon and sea trout, there could be negative impacts for the wider ecosystems of Irish waters, according to Gallagher. 

“Despite only very limited information being currently available to assess such threats, the climatic and environmental conditions in Ireland are considered quite amenable to facilitate the establishment of Pacific pink salmon populations in Irish river systems,” he said. 

Pacific pink salmon are migratory species of salmon, which are native to river systems in the northern Pacific ocean, and nearby regions of the Bering Sea and Arctic ocean. 

The species has also established populations in rivers in the northern-most parts of Norway. and in the far northwest of Russia. 

Although they were first recorded in Ireland in 1973, they were very rare in Irish waters until 2017, and in the past week have been spotted in more southern parts of Norway, prompting fears they could appear in Irish waters once again. 

Anglers who catch pink salmon are being asked to take a photograph, tag the fish, do not return the fish to the water, and keep them for the IFI, which will arrange for them to be collected. 

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