Irish Report confirms escaped farmed salmon invasion

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Irish Report confirms escaped farmed salmon invasion
Rob Fletcher
16 February 2018, at 12:54pm

A new report by Inland Fisheries Ireland (IFI) suggests up to 500 escaped farmed Atlantic salmon entered rivers in Galway and Mayo last autumn.

Todays’ report explains how escapee farmed salmon were detected last year in the Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport and Bunowen rivers in counties Galway and Mayo.

IFI has not been advised of any reports of escapes, by salmon farm owners, coinciding with the detections to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM), the licensing authority for aquaculture – despite such reports being a condition for granting aquaculture licences. 

The new report says that “up to 500 escaped farmed salmon may have entered western salmon rivers during the August/September period 2017”.

Furthermore, it says “that the presence of sexually mature farmed salmon in rivers poses a potential threat to local wild salmon populations from interbreeding and other ecological effects”.

In October 2017, the Board of IFI issued the following statement: “Inland Fisheries Ireland has been charged with the protection of wild Atlantic salmon and continues to have concerns regarding the impacts of fish farms on Ireland’s precious wild fish. The licencing regime and best management practice should provide assurance to the State that controls are in place that safeguard our heritage. This does not appear to be the case in this instance. Inland Fisheries Ireland supports sustainable fish farming but cautions against the renewal and/or award of licences where conditions are not being adhered to. The Board recommends immediate strict enforcement and audit of existing licence conditions to ensure compliance and ultimately a sustainable resource for all.”

Speaking on the publication of the new report, Dr Cathal Gallagher, IFI’s Head of Research and Development, said: “While a small number of farmed salmon spawning in a catchment may not have a detectable long term effect on the wild salmon population, repeated escapes of large numbers of farmed fish have the potential to cause serious damage to vulnerable wild salmon populations. The large number of escaped farmed salmon entering into these rivers, with a high proportion of males likely to be sexually mature, presents a potential threat to local wild salmon populations. IFI will continue to monitor the situation and may need to conduct longer-term genetic studies on the impact of the presence of these farmed salmon.”