RECENT dissections of Rainbow trout caught at the River Mourne have confirmed fears of the damage this invasive species is causing.
A Rainbow trout caught in recent days by a member of the Sion Mills Angling Club was found to have salmon smoults in its system, confirming that the hundreds of thousands of Rainbow trout released during last August’s floods are feeding on natural salmon in the river.
Barney Winters of Strabane and Lifford Anglers Association feels this development confirms the grave fears many local anglers have.
“This is extremely worrying for local fisherman and what many of us were fearful of,” he said. “One thing experts told us was the invasive Rainbow trout would not feed on small juvenile fish and would instead compete for natural food sources.
“While this has been the case, a fish dissected recently has proven to be a fish which has consumed young salmon. With so many trout released last year this will have a detrimental impact on future salmon.”
According to Barney an absence of natural food could have driven the Rainbow trout to feed on salmon smoults.
“An increased competition for natural food has come about as there is simply such a vast amount of trout in the river as a result of the flood.
If even one per-cent of the trout – which at a low estimate is 385,000 fish – adopt to eating smoults, a catastrophic impact on local salmon will be experienced.
“Furthermore, competition for food could result in juvenile smoults moving out to sea to find the food of their choice. This has already been the case with Brown trout, which have moved out of the area due to a lack of food and infestation.”
The issue of the local river infestation has been subject to widespread public furore. Local fishing related reports resource ‘Mourne Reports’ stated that local salmon fishing is “in tatters” following last August’s floods.
John Harkin an angler Sion Mills feels the true consequences of the situation have not yet been felt.
“The consequences of this disaster will not be obvious until it is time for the smoults to return to the system as adult salmon in a few years time, then we may find that the Atlantic salmon which has existed in our rivers for tens of thousands of years as a natural species will become extinct in the Foyle system.”