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Fears of ‘alien’ pink salmon returning to waterways

ANGLERS in Strabane are being urged to keep an eye out for pink salmon in the local rivers and to report any catches of the non-native fish.

The alien fish which is often referred to as humpback salmon, is normally only found in waters off the Pacific ocean in the west coasts of Canada and the USA as well as northern Asia.

However, back in 2017, a number of the fish were caught in the River Foyle system, including a 2.6lb fish landed in the River Mourne. There were also pink salmon reports in rivers right around Ireland.

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As the salmon have a two year breeding cycle, there are concerns that the fish may once again return to Irish rivers in Ireland over the coming weeks and months.

Seamus Cullinan from the Lough Agency – which is responsible for fish stocks and habitats in the Foyle and Carlingford waters – said that while the pink salmon did not pose an immediate major threat to the already dwindling stocks of native Atlantic salmon, he stressed it was important for anglers to report any sightings or catches.

“We had a number of these fish reported in the Foyle system back in 2017, so there’s chance some may return again this year,” said the fishery inspector.

“It’s important that we keep a track on any pink salmon that come into waters, and for that reason anglers should come forward and let us know if they catch any of them or spot them.”

With numbers of Atlantic salmon returning to Irish rivers already in steady decline, there are concerns that a new species of salmon could heap further pressure on the native species.

Across the border, Dr Cathal Gallagher, who is the head of research and development at Inland Fisheries Ireland said, “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 such as Atlantic salmon and sea trout as well as estuarine and coastal marine fish species and their associated ecosystems.

“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.”

Pink Salmon can be distinguished by the following: Large black oval spots on the tail, 11-19 rays on the anal fin, very small scales – much smaller than a similarly-sized Atlantic Salmon, no dark spots on the gill cover, upper jaw typically extending beyond the eye, they also have a white mouth with black gums and tongue, they have no “teeth” on the tongue and their tail is covered with large oval spots.

“Loughs Agency is asking members of the public who catch a Pink Salmon to contact Loughs Agency without delay and to record date and location of capture, length and weight of fish and to take a photograph of the fish,” a spokesperson said.

“The fish should be kept for further examination by Loughs Agency. Retained fish should be tagged, but Loughs Agency will replace the tag used.”

• Reports can be made to Loughs Agency 24-hour hotline number 028 7134 2100.

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The Strabane Chronicle is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
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