Irish government warns Pacific pink salmon overwhelming wild Atlantic salmon stocks

Published on
June 15, 2022
Fisheries authorities in Ireland are warning about an influx of Pacific pink salmon putting the country’s critically endangered Atlantic salmon “on the verge of a very serious ecological crisis.”

Fisheries authorities in Ireland are warning about an influx of Pacific pink salmon putting the country’s critically endangered Atlantic salmon “on the verge of a very serious ecological crisis.”

Francis O’Donnell, the CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland – a state body tasked with protecting freshwater fish resources – has appealed to anglers and the public to report any sightings of any Pacific pink salmon in Irish river systems.

“[Wild Atlantic salmon] is already under threat from declining water quality, loss of habitat, and the impacts of sea lice and salmon farm escapes on native stocks,” O’Donnell said. “We will have to consider robust mitigation measures that may prove costly and labor-intensive.”

Pointing to a surge in pink salmon stocks in northern Norway in 2021 and increased reporting of the non-native species in Irish rivers, Inland Fisheries Ireland Head of Research and Development Cathal Gallagher said an influx of the fish could overwhelm the depleted Atlantic salmon population and the ecosystems upon which it depends. 

The Irish climate and environment, he said, are “amenable to facilitate the potential establishment of Pacific pink salmon populations in our river systems.”

Concerns about the spread of pink salmon to the wider Atlantic region were raised at the recently held North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) meeting. The spread of the pink salmon has been attributed by some experts to stocking programs undertaken in rivers in the adjacent far northwest of Russia since the 1950s until 2001.  Since 2017, the fish has been detected in unprecedented numbers in river systems and coastal areas of the North Atlantic.

Photo courtesy of Maria_Janus/Shutterstock

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