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Public urged to keep an eye out for Pacific salmon seen in Irish rivers

Catches of pink salmon have been reported on the Drowes and Crana rivers in Donegal, and in Sligo, Mayo and Galway.

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Public urged to keep an eye out for Pacific salmon seen in Irish rivers

Details from Inland Fisheries Ireland's information flyer on the Pacific pink salmon.

Inland Fisheries Ireland has repeated their call to anglers and the wider public to report sightings of the non-native Pacific pink salmon in Irish rivers.

Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) had raised the issue last month, following sightings of the fish in Donegal, Sligo, Galway and Mayo rivers.

There had been six or seven caught at that time, but IFI said fish caught represented just a percentage of all the pink salmon in freshwater.

In a statement this week, IFI said 30 pink salmon have been recorded in nine Irish rivers since the first catch reported on June 27th from the Galway Weir fishery.

Catches of pink salmon had been reported on the Drowes and Crana rivers in Donegal, Foxford Fishery in Mayo, Coolcronan Fishery on the River Moy, Galway Fishery on the River Corrib, the Cong River and the Owengarve River in Mayo.

One of the most recent captures was a mature male ready to spawn on the River Erriff in County Mayo.

There is no license to farm Pacific pink salmon in Ireland. Ireland's native species is the Atlantic salmon.

The appearance of the new species is a concern to IFI because it may impact on Ireland’s indigenous salmon populations in the future, an IFI spokesperson said.

While the potential impact of the new species is unclear at the moment, the fish may introduce parasites and pathogens not present in native salmon. Competition for food and space in nursery areas between juvenile pink and Atlantic salmon is also a possibility.

Speaking to the Democrat last month, Dr. Greg Forde, head of operations at IFI, said, “We’ll be looking out for them and we want everybody else to be looking out there.”

He said there was only one Pacific pink salmon recorded in Ireland last year, in Cork. The fish has also been seen in more waters in the UK and Scotland this year.

The pink salmon is of Pacific origin and native to northern Asia and the west coast of North America.

Pink salmon are blue-green to steel blue in colour on the back, with silver sides and a white underbelly.

There are several distinctive characteristics to distinguish it from the Atlantic salmon. The pink salmon have large, black oval spots on the tail and 11 to 19 rays on the anal fin, for example. Pink salmon also have very small scales, much smaller than a similarly sized Atlantic salmon.

Pink salmon have no dark spots on the gill cover and an upper jaw that typically extends behond the eye. Male pink salmon also develop a pronounced humpback on entering freshwater.

IFI is urging anglers to report catches of pink salmon to IFI’s 24-hour confidential hotline , 1890 34 74 24 or 18790 FISH 24. As these fish die after spawning, some dead specimens could also be discovered along Irish rivers.

Anyone who catches a pink salmon is asked to keep the fish, even in rivers only open for catch-and-release angling.

People are also asked to take a photograph of the fish and to tag the fish and present it to IFI, where a new tag will replace the tag used.

Inland fisheries will arrange collection of the fish for further examination, which will help establish the abundance and extent of the species in Irish waters.