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Irish smolts take the northern route

The route taken by young salmon (smolts) leaving the east coast of Ireland has been discovered for the first time. Researchers tagged smolts with coded transmitting acoustic tags in the Castletown and Boyne rivers in Co Louth during the spring of 2019 and listening devices have revealed the route they take on reaching the sea. Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) and Northern Ireland’s Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute (AFBI) have revealed findings which show young salmon leaving rivers on the eastern coast travelling northwards to leave the Irish Sea, rather than south and west to join salmon on the western coast.

One of the smolts was recorded in Scottish waters, some 80 kilometres north of the Inishowen Peninsula. This smolt had travelled an estimated 250 kilometres in just over a month, one of the longest distances recorded for a salmon tracked at sea en route to its feeding grounds in the North Atlantic. Two more salmon smolts were tracked as far as receivers located off the Northern Ireland coast, further confirming the northward migration of the fish through the Irish Sea. Until now, it was unknown if juvenile salmon leaving Ireland’s east coast rivers headed around the north or south coasts to get to their oceanic feeding grounds.

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