Farmed salmon found in angling rivers following unreported escape

‘Three of the 65 salmon found in the Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport and Bunowen rivers were fully-grown males with the ability to spawn and threaten the genetic integrity of native Irish salmon’

Concerns over wild salmon. File photograph of wild Atlantic salmon. Photograph: Getty Images

Concerns over wild salmon. File photograph of wild Atlantic salmon. Photograph: Getty Images

 

Dozens of farmed salmon have been caught in prime angling rivers in the West of Ireland, following their unreported escape from salmon farms, Inland Fisheries Ireland has said.

So far, three of the 65 salmon found in the Delphi, Erriff, Kylemore/Dawros, Newport and Bunowen rivers were fully-grown males with the ability to spawn and threaten the genetic integrity of native Irish salmon.

The discovery was made even though no reports of “escapes” from cages to the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine have been made by salmon farmers, as required by law.

IFI, which has responsibility for the rivers, said it “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 licensing 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,” it added.

It said it supports sustainable fish farming “but cautions against the renewal and/or award of licences where conditions are not being adhered to”.

It underlined the need for strict enforcement and audit of existing licence conditions “to ensure compliance and ultimately a sustainable resource for all”.

It was confirmed last week that swarms of stinger jellyfish wiped out large stocks of salmon after invading four fish farms along the west coast in recent weeks.

Galway Bay Against Salmon Cages campaign group alleged farmed salmon were released into the wild as there were not enough of them to make them commercially viable to harvest. The Irish Salmon Growers Association said, however, that “at no stage were any fish released”.

The department has confirmed to IFI it has received no reports of escapes. To date, 65 farmed salmon escapees have turned up on the rivers in Cos Galway and Mayo. The IFI said it has yet to get an indication of the exact scale of the escape as the majority of fish were caught by anglers who generally only encounter a small proportion of salmon in a river.

Their scientists were analysing captured fish in an attempt to identify the history and maturity status of the farmed salmon. This will assist in evaluating the risks to wild salmon stocks.