Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) has issued a Pacific pink salmon alert after the first pink salmon of this season was captured on the River Moy in Co. Mayo.

IFI is asking the angling community and general public to report any sightings of Pacific pink salmon, due to concerns that Irish Atlantic salmon and trout could be at risk from this non-native species, which was rare in Irish waters until 2017, and are believed to have originated from stocking programmes in Russia. They have since established themselves in north-west Russia and northern Norway.
It is believed that pink salmon – also known as ‘humpback’ salmon – should they attain large numbers, may have negative impacts on Ireland’s salmon and trout populations in the future.

IFI’s Dr Paddy Gargan said: “If Pacific pink salmon become established in Irish rivers, they will be competing with Irish salmon and trout for food and space. Pink salmon also display aggressive behaviour towards native fish and a large invasion of pink salmon could push out Atlantic salmon and trout from holding pools into smaller channels.”

Having been rare visitors to Irish waters, pink salmon suddenly started to appear in numbers on Irish rivers in 2017. Having a two-year life-cycle, they surged again in 2019, with fish recorded in multiple river systems throughout the country. The potential for reappearance of pink salmon in Irish river systems in 2021 is high, and anglers are asked to be vigilant in this regard.

  • How to identify pink salmon
  • Adult fish fresh from the sea are blue-green to steel blue on the back, with silver sides and a white underbelly
  • Typical length range: 40–55 cm (maximum 76cm)
  • Typical weight range: 1.0–2.5 kg (maximum 6.8kg)
  •  Males develop a pronounced humpback in freshwater
  •  Large black oval spots on tail
  •  Very small scales, much smaller than a similarly-sized Atlantic salmon
  • Upper jaw typically extends beyond eye
  • Anal fin rays: 11-19. Atlantic salmon have 7-11 rays
  • No dark spots on gill cover

In appealing for help from the angling community and general public, Dr Gargan added: “There is only limited information currently available to assess the threat from Pacific pink salmon, so we are asking the angling community and general public to report any sightings”.

Anglers who encounter pink salmon in Irish river systems are requested to contact IFI immediately and record: date and location of capture; length and weight of the fish; and take a photograph. The fish should then be tagged and retained for IFI. Used tags will be replaced. Then telephone IFI’s 24-hour confidential hotline: 1890 347424.

The IFI also advise that dead specimens may be encountered along rivers, as these fish die after spawning.