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Tyrone rivers face new threats from invasive species

A photo of the Pink Salmon caught on the River Mourne.

INVASIVE species have the potential “to wipe out” our local rivers, experts have warned.

This week a fish ordinarily indigenous to the Pacific Ocean and North America, the Pink Salmon was recorded for the first time on the River Mourne.

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Another invasive species which could present an even greater impact than the Pink Salmon is the Asian Clam which has been discovered in Lough Foyle which is of course the estuary through which many Tyrone rivers eventually flow to the sea.

Sion Mills man, Alban Norrby landed the first Pink Salmon in the North, and the Loughs Agency fear the invader may impact Atlantic salmon species, stocks of which are already in decline.

Gortin man Brian Ward, who is a member of Invasive Species Ireland, believes the main concern is the possibility of Pink Salmon arriving in numbers.

“The problem with the introduction of any new species is that we just don’t know what the full impact is going to be,” he said.

“But definitely, this is another pressure on the Atlantic Salmon that the species just didn’t need.

“The future for anglers has been looking brighter this past few years… but this (development) is disappointing because it’s completely out of our hands; it’s an international issue.

“If they started to arrive in numbers then they could start competing in terms of breeding and resources with Atlantic Salmon, whose numbers are dwindling anyway.”

Mr Ward says it’s most likely the Pink Salmon’s capacity to “explore and expand” which has led to their arrival in Irish waters.

The second threat facing Tyrone rivers is the Asian Clam.

Originating from China, Korea and south-eastern Russia, this tiny shellfish is already established on the lower reaches of the Foyle and fears remain that it could spread to local rivers, resulting in a collapse of the rivers’ ecosystems.

“It’s an invasive species which has already been found on the lower Foyle,” well-known angler, Barney Winters remarked.

Mr Winters who is the proprietor of River Mourne Country Sports in Strabane explained that whilst the clam doesn’t have the capacity to spread upstream on its own, transfers can happen by fishermen or anyone partaking in water-based activities.

“This thing offers far more of a threat than the Pink Salmon and the worrying thing is: No-one seems to be paying much heed to it,” Mr Winters continued.

“It has the potential to wipe out our rivers.”

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