Irish fisheries authorities are warning of an influx of Pacific pink salmon that is putting critically endangered Atlantic salmon “on the brink of a very serious ecological crisis”.
Francis O’Donnell, CEO of Inland Fisheries Ireland – a state body responsible for protecting freshwater fisheries resources – called on anglers and the public to report any sightings of Pacific pink salmon in Irish river systems.
“[Wild Atlantic salmon] is already threatened by declining water quality, habitat loss and the impacts of sea lice and escaped salmon farming on native stocks,” O’Donnell said. “We will need to consider robust mitigation measures which can be costly and labor intensive.”
Pointing to an increase in pink salmon stocks in northern Norway in 2021 and rising reports of non-native species in Irish rivers, Inland Fisheries Ireland research and development manager Cathal Gallagher said an influx of fish could overwhelm the depleted Atlantic salmon population and ecosystems on which it depends.
The Irish climate and environment, he said, are “likely to facilitate the potential establishment of populations of Pacific pink salmon in our river systems”.
Concerns about the spread of pink salmon throughout the Atlantic region were raised at the recent meeting of the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO). The spread of pink salmon has been attributed by some experts to stocking programs undertaken in rivers in the adjacent far northwest of Russia from the 1950s until 2001. Since 2017, the fish have been detected in numbers unprecedented in river systems and coastal areas of the North Atlantic.
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